COVID-19 outbreak prompts Powell River Regional Hospital District to write letters

Committee commends Tla’amin Nation, wants transparency from Vancouver Coastal Health

Powell River Regional Hospital District will be sending out two letters prompted by the COVID-19 outbreak in the region.

At the September 10 regional hospital district committee of the whole meeting, city director CaroleAnn Leishman, chair of the Powell River Regional Hospital Board, said she and regional district chair Patrick Brabazon discussed sending a joint letter to Tla’amin Nation, expressing sympathy and offering help. She said the desire was to commend the nation for a really rapid response and for appropriate measures being put in place.

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Leishman said since then, City of Powell River mayor Dave Formosa had put out a YouTube video message and chief administrative officer Al Radke suggested that could be another option for the regional district.

Leishman said whatever is the most appropriate way for the regional district board and hospital district board, she would be happy with a letter or a video message.

Electoral Area D director Sandy McCormick, who was acting chair of the hospital board committee of the whole meeting, said if the board waited until the qathet Regional District (qRD) meeting at the end of the month to ratify the motion, there would be a delay, so she wondered if the letter could be sent in advance of the board meeting.

Radke said the letter could be written, sent and ratified at the regional board meeting.

Brabazon said he had seen the video put out by the mayor. He said he was in favour of a letter being sent, signed by the two chairs.

“That would be the most appropriate and efficient way to do it,” said Brabazon.

Electoral Area E director Andrew Fall said he was in favour of the letter going out as quickly as possible so he agreed with Brabazon’s comments.

“I’m in support of quickly doing this,” said Fall.

Electoral Area B director Mark Gisborne said he had no objection to the letter being sent out as soon as possible.

“As we are well aware, COVID-19 is a time-sensitive topic,” said Gisborne. “The Tla’amin Nation and their leadership is fantastic for letting the community know that they’ve had cases. I, for one, greatly appreciate it. This letter is a really good first step.”

Gisborne said there have been multiple COVID-19 cases reported in Tla’amin Nation. He added that Vancouver Coastal Health’s (VCH) policy is to not report how many active cases there are within Powell River Regional Hospital District.

“This is kind of creating an inaccurate impression that the outbreak is only among members of the Tla’amin Nation,” said Gisborne. “I believe if VCH was to change its policy and disclose how many actual cases there are in the Powell River Regional Hospital District, then it would greatly help to educate the public that it (COVID-19) is not isolated to Tla’amin Nation alone. That would help reduce the discrimination towards our friends and neighbours.”

McCormick said she wanted to state that the Tla’amin response was incredibly responsible.

“They really set a standard for the way a group should respond to an outbreak in their community,” said McCormick. “You never know when it is going to happen to you.”

The regional hospital board voted to send a letter to Tla’amin.

Gisborne then made a motion that the Powell River Regional Hospital Board, in coordination with the qathet Regional Board, send a letter to the provincial ministry of health. The motion further stated: “that for the purposes of public education, and combating discrimination, we request that Vancouver Coastal Health keep the Powell River Regional Hospital District and the qathet regional emergency operation centre informed with up-to-date information in relation to the number of new and active cases of COVID-19 within our region.”

Gisborne said some of the things he’s hearing from the community is that there are all of these cases in Tla’amin and as a result, some of the members of the nation are being singled out.

He said since the region is all in this together, and Tla’amin is announcing how many cases it has, that the regional district should be fully informed so it can let the community know there are cases, not just in Tla’amin Nation, but within the regional community.

“I’ve heard that we have cases outside Tla’amin Nation but if we were to get that information from VCH, we could then inform the community and people would know it’s not just isolated to Tla’amin Nation,” said Gisborne. “Everyone needs to be vigilant. More information is better for everyone.”

City director George Doubt said the reason VCH had given for not identifying local areas where there were COVID-19 cases was they were worried about a backlash and people being treated poorly.

“I applaud the Tla’amin Nation for securing the borders of their community once they realized there was an outbreak,” said Doubt. “I don’t think writing a letter to Vancouver Coastal Health, which has the subtext of belief that they are not providing us with information, would be useful. I think it would be negative.”

Radke said if the motion was being considered, he would applaud it. He said the qathet regional emergency operations centre (EOC), which is a joint venture of the Tla’amin Nation, qRD and City of Powell River, has been lacking in information.

“If there is a big frustration from the EOC directors, it is the lack of communication coming from VCH,” said Radke. “This might be a step in the right direction. We’ve already had one debrief and VCH, to put it mildly, got an earful, but they still have not come full circle. They still live in their own bubble when it comes to releasing information of any sort.

“We can’t help VCH and we can’t help Tla’amin if we don’t know what is going on. VCH has been holding their cards close to the chest rather than being transparent and letting us all know what’s going on. They will not even put down the rumor mill of bad information circulating.”

Brabazon said he had some mixed feelings about the motion but he said he didn’t think it would do any harm.

The regional hospital board voted to send the letter to VCH.

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