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Something’s gotta give

As hospitals fill with unvaccinated COVID patients, and as all Canadians have the right to healthcare, Jody Vance has an idea.

A difficult memory popped up on my phone this week.

It took me back two years to my Mom’s second scary, and serious, brush with death from colon cancer. After her regular scope showed a “spot” alerting us that the cancer she’d beaten decades before (due to early detection) was back.

She needed surgery. Urgently.

We were – and are – incredibly grateful for swift action.

We were lucky. Today, someone else with a similar diagnosis likely must wait. In today’s COVID-stressed healthcare system, Mom might still be waiting.

Terrifying thought. Turns my stomach.

How many are dealing with postponed interventions that might improve or even save their lives?

In what has become a pandemic of the unvaccinated, I suggest the time has come to pivot back to the needs of the many in BC hospitals.

Between cancelled surgeries, full ICUs, and overwhelmed nurses and doctors – almost entirely due to unvaccinated COVID cases – leads me to ask a tough question: Is it time to physically separate the two?

First, to be perfectly clear, in no way am I suggesting lesser care for unvaccinated COVID-19 patients. In Canada, ALL citizens have a right to the best possible healthcare. I am suggesting that COVID patients no longer bump all others who need urgent care.

Can we pivot our system to balance both? At the very least ask what that might that look like?

Rather than cancelling surgeries due to COVID in hospitals, might there be a way to create COVID-only hospitals? Shift care to designated spaces, in facilities set up to treat COVID-19, and nothing else. If need be, helicopter those folks to one of a handful of central locations so that communities can return to caring for the varied and many needs.

COVID patients could receive focused care. Specialized care. The best our system can offer. At the same time British Columbians suffering all other ills might also find safe and swift care for their needs.

As things are, our healthcare system is running uphill on an endless treadmill. This is not sustainable. The status quo is unrealistic.

Even before the pandemic, our system was already straining with the opioid crisis and regular caseloads — seeing a crisis level nursing shortage.

Not enough staff, not enough beds, not enough room, not enough anything. Hospital workers are already starting to walk away from this cycle of not enough.

The sources I’ve spoken to, on condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs, tell me that nurses and support staff are at their wit’s end, close to saying “I’m out.” This runs terrifyingly deep and is not reflected in COVID briefings beyond words of gratitude.

We are watching the erosion of our already stressed health system and that puts us all at risk.

In communities with multiple hospitals and/or urgent care centres, could one not become the COVID destination, leaving the other(s) for non-COVID emergencies?

Yes, there would be healthcare heroes who would step up to take this on; just look at those doing it right now. We have the ability and technology to create a MASH-style overflow - like we had at the Vancouver Convention Centre for the better part of 18 months.

Finding some equity in care feels like the next needed conversation. If we don’t address it now, we’ll lose our chance to make it about us AND them, instead of us OR them.

We need a return to healthcare for all. Something’s gotta give.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.