B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix says it is "foolish" to continue on with life unvaccinated as Interior Health hospitals struggle to keep up, with staffing shortages due to burnout and ICUs full of mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients.
Dix made himself available to media on Thursday afternoon to respond to ongoing health care crises in the region, including protests disrupting hospital care, a woman dying in the ER waiting room at Royal Inland Hospital and unvaccinated cases of COVID-19 taxing the health care system.
There are currently 130 people in ICUs in B.C., and 111 of those patients are unvaccinated, Dix said. None under 50 are fully vaccinated.
Dix said those who are sick in B.C. ICUs are receiving some of the best health care in the world, praising the efforts of health-care workers.
"However, I want to be plain. Everyone would rather be doing something else," he said.
Staff burnout and subsequent staffing shortages have presented a serious problem at Kamloops' Royal Inland Hospital, with more attention on the issue following the death of a 70-year-old woman in the ER waiting room.
Dix said he could not comment on the matter specifically because a "full and comprehensive" review is underway by Interior Health.
But he did acknowledge the "challenging times" at Kamloops' hospital and others within the health region, where hundreds of non-urgent scheduled surgeries have been cancelled.
"I know it's a challenge. Interior Health knows it's a challenge, there and everywhere else," he said.
But Dix stopped short of answering questions on how the immediate staffing crisis at RIH will be remedied.
He said Kamloops is, and has been, a priority in recent years, and that the province invested $1 million there earlier this year.
Dix also addressed questions on protests that have taken place outside hospitals in the province, and in many cases, have further hindered the work of health-care workers.
"We're looking at all of the steps that need to be taken to ensure health-care workers and patients are safe.
"There is an absolute right of dissent in our country, but to interfere with cancer patients, heart patients, grieving families and people who need to use the ER... There are places to demonstrate that are not our public hospitals," Dix said.
The demonstrations, Dix said, "serve no purpose at all."
"With the Delta variant present, it is a foolish thing to not be vaccinated. It stresses our entire health-care system and impacts everybody else who needs to use the system," he said.
Approximately 70 per cent of all cases in B.C. are among unvaccinated people, despite the fact they currently only account for 15 per cent of the population among those eligible to be vaccinated.
B.C.'s vaccination coverage as of Thursday is 85.3 per cent for dose one and 77.8 per cent for dose two, which Dix said was among the highest in the world.