A view from the Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre - Xaayda Gwaay Ngaaysdll Naay - in the Village of Queen Charlotte. (File photo)

A view from the Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre - Xaayda Gwaay Ngaaysdll Naay - in the Village of Queen Charlotte. (File photo)

Haida Gwaii doctors issue urgent appeal for precaution amid COVID-19 pandemic

Physicians concerned on-island outbreak could overwhelm medical resources

Haida Gwaii physicians are urging islanders to take stringent precautions against the spread of COVID-19, and help prevent the disease from overwhelming the islands’ medical resources.

In a joint statement on haidagwaiihealth.ca the doctors warned if the virus is allowed to spread on Haida Gwaii as it has elsewhere, more than 400 islanders could become sick enough to require hospital care.

“We only have 12 acute care beds between the two hospitals, and most of these are already full,” reads the letter. “Over 20 people could become sick enough to need a ventilator (breathing machine), and we have only two of these on the islands. Also keep in mind that, as our health care resources get diverted to deal with those that get very sick, we will struggle to keep up with the usual health care emergencies (heart attacks, accidents, etc.). This pandemic has consequences for everybody’s health.”

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The doctors urge residents’ adherence to common disease-prevention practices, such as limiting social interactions.

“If you must leave your home for work or essentials, keep your distance from others, ideally beyond two meters (6 feet). Wash your hands often and try not to touch your face (and wash your hands or use sanitizer after you do!). Please encourage friends and family to do the same.”

Anyone on Haida Gwaii who suspects they have contracted COVID-19 is asked to follow these three steps:

1. If you develop a fever, cold symptoms or a cough, use the B.C. government’s Online Assessment Tool or call the Northern Health COVID-19 Hotline at 1-844-645-7811 to help you decide if you need medical attention.

2. If you need to see a doctor, call first so medical staff can prepare for your visit and not keep you waiting where the virus can be spread to others. South end residents call 1-250-559-4900; North end residents call 1-250-626-4702

3. Stay calm and be kind, but do not minimize the seriousness of the situation. Encourage each other (and elected politicians) to do the right thing in a timely fashion, and support each other through this crisis.

The doctors note they are preparing the best they can for any future challenges.

“We are working hard to adapt to this evolving situation, to get through this in the best way possible. We care deeply for you all and want the best for you and your families,” the letter reads.