Interior Health has transferred five in-patients from Merritt’s Nicola Valley Hospital along with 45 long-term care residents to facilities in 100 Mile House and Williams Lake, following an evacuation order in that city due to excessive flooding from the Coldwater River.
Lisa Zetes-Zanatta, executive director of clinical operations, Thompson and Cariboo regions, said 143 residents, including independent seniors, were evacuated from Merritt over a 14-hour period Monday. While some were taken to Kamloops and Kelowna, two in-patients were transferred to 100 Mile District General Hospital, along with 14 long-term care residents who were moved to Fischer Place.
In Williams Lake, three in-patients were taken to Cariboo Memorial Hospital, with 27 long-term care residents at Cariboo Place and four at Deni House.
Only a handful of patients were taken out of region, Zetes-Zanatta said. Interior Health may have to transfer more people out of the region if there are further evacuations as “we’re getting pretty tight,” she added, but noted at the moment the facilities have stabilized.
“When we have to plan for an act of God, we try to keep them in the same region to make it accessible for any family they have nearby,” she said. “It’s a lot to move people and we want to make the impact as little as possible.”
The patients and residents, along with Interior Health staff who have been put up in local hotels, could spend between two and four weeks in the Cariboo, depending on the flooding situation in Merritt, she said. Interior Health is working with the city, which experienced the failure of its wastewater treatment plant, meaning residents could not flush a toilet or run a faucet as it would back up into their home.
The Cariboo is one of the few areas Interior Health can still access, after flooding and mudslides shut down all the major highways – including the Coquihalla, Highway 1, the Hope-Princeton Highway and Highway 99. Zetes-Zanatta said Interior Health learned from the recent wildfires, which resulted in evacuation orders for long-term care residents twice in the past summer.
“We learned a lot from the fires. We’ve gotten pretty quick at doing these evacuations,” she said, extending her thanks to the local staff and physicians. “I certainly can’t say enough about my staff and facilities in the Cariboo. I’m clearly understanding what Cariboo strong means. If anyone wonders if climate change is a real threat, you just have to look at our region. I feel we have been an example.
“Between this and the pandemic, it’s been a tough two years for health care.”