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Health ministry rejects Powell River Regional Hospital District request for COVID-19 details

BC’s ministry of health will not be forthcoming with detailed information about COVID-19 cases in the Powell River area.
Powell River General Hospital
Powell River General Hospital. Peak archive photo

BC’s ministry of health will not be forthcoming with detailed information about COVID-19 cases in the Powell River area.

At the January 14 meeting of the Powell River Regional Hospital District committee of the whole, directors reviewed correspondence from the ministry in response to two emails sent by the hospital district requesting detailed COVID-19 case information in the region.

“It was pretty much word for word what we expected,” said city director CaroleAnn Leishman, who chairs the regional hospital district. “There’s nothing new there but I will just say there has been more regular communication coming to us about the number of COVID-19 positive cases in our region. Maybe being a bit of a squeaky wheel has helped increase the amount of times we have been getting weekly updates if there are positive cases.”

Electoral Area A director Patrick Brabazon said the response is what the regional hospital board expected.

The board voted to receive the correspondence.

In the correspondence from Thomas Guerrero, executive director with the ministry of health, protecting health and safety of British Columbians is the top priority of the ministry.

“While we can appreciate your request for detailed COVID-19 case information for your region, it is the policy of this ministry and the health authorities to identify presumptive or confirmed cases by health service delivery area only,” stated Guerrero. “However, more detailed information may be released in situations where public health teams are unable to reach people through contact tracing. This policy safeguards the privacy and safety of individuals and families who are currently in isolation or affected by this virus.

“It is important that we do not shame or blame those in our communities who have the virus, because it quite often discourages others from coming forward and getting tested, putting all of us at risk.”

To review current exposures, Guerrero recommended the committee review the local health authority website or the BC Centre for Disease Control website.

“I understand this is not the response you were looking for but hope this clarifies our position,” stated Guerrero.

Leishman said she was not disappointed with the response.

“We didn’t have expectations that it would shake a lot of things up but I have complete faith in the provincial health care system,” added Leishman. “For me, it was just raising awareness. There was concern and I’m happy with the response. The provincial health authority has done an amazing job so I’m not dissatisfied with the response.”

City director George Doubt said there actually is a small amount more information coming about COVID-19.

“There’s more localized information available and as I watch the news, I see groups of people who are protesting that it’s not enough, and others, at the same time, protesting there’s too much information and it’s violating people’s privacy,” said Doubt. “Between last September and currently, the amount of information that is being provided locally has improved, and I think it’s allaying a lot of people’s fears and providing good information.

“The more facts we have, the better it is. Hopefully, we’re working through the journey and it will get better as time goes along.”