A local leader questioning tighter provincial health restrictions in the Interior Health region has been advised that limits are under review.
Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick is seeking clarification on capacity restrictions that apply to indoor sporting events, concerts, theatre, movie theatres, dance and symphony events.
“What is the rationale for capacity rules being more restrictive in the Interior Health Authority compared to those in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island regions?” Letnick said in a Nov. 15 letter to Health Minister Adrian Dix.
Groups in the arts, sports teams (including BCHL) and other organizations have “been desperately trying to survive as they adjust to changing capacity rules,” Letnick said.
“What will trigger a change to the capacity rules in the IHA region such that they align with those in the other above-mentioned regions, and when?”
Dix responded to Letnick’s letter Nov. 21 stating that COVID-19 case counts are dropping and limits could be reduced.
“I am encouraged by the progress being made in the Interior to improve vaccination rates which are in turn having a positive impact on case counts,” Dix said.
As of Nov. 20, the average case count for the week was down to 88 cases with a 5.47 per cent positivity rate. That is down from 246 on Aug. 20 and a 14.82 per cent positivity rate.
”This is a positive indication of the vaccination efforts that have been ongoing in the Interior where we have gone from 68 per cent (compared to 74.3 per cent for all of B.C.) of people 12 plus who were fully vaccinated to 81.3 per cent (compared to 86.9 per cent for all of B.C.) who are now fully vaccinated,” said Dix.
But the rationale for public health measures is based on multiple considerations, including hospitalization levels and critical care numbers.
Interior Health has 1,436 available base beds and 406 surge beds for a total of 1,842 beds across the health authority.
There are currently 1,571 beds occupied (1,397 base and 174 surge), representing 109.4 per cent of base bed capacity. Dix compares this to Aug. 20 when 1,426 beds were occupied (1,351 base and 75 surge), representing 99.3 per cent of base bed capacity.
“Significant concerns remain for the Interior as is the ongoing need for caution,” Dix said.
Kelowna General Hospital has 443 base beds, 68 surge beds and have 507 of those beds occupied (443 base and 64 surge) representing 114.4 per cent of base bed capacity.
“KGH is the second highest total occupancy rate in the province after Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops where the hospitalization situation continues to be very serious,” said Dix. “Every hospital in B.C. faces challenges, but none more than Royal Inland and Kelowna General.”
Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Sue Pollock addressed this in previous correspondence when she wrote, “My regional medical health officer orders are in place to bring added protection against COVID-19 due to continued higher risk in our region. The Interior region has seen lower immunization rates, higher hospitalization rates and concerning COVID-19 circulation. Fortunately, we are trending in the right direction and once I am satisfied that the risk has diminished, I will lift or adjust these orders accordingly.”
Based on the evidence, Dix said Pollock and Dr. Bonnie Henry are seriously considering modifying capacity limits in IHA.
Letnick applauds British Columbians, businesses and organizations that have shown “incredible resilience, and a willingness to follow public health orders that have been ever changing as the situation has evolved.”