Council wants a say in the expansion of long term care services in Smithers. Pictured here is the Bulkley Lodge facility in that community. (Google photo)

Council wants a say in the expansion of long term care services in Smithers. Pictured here is the Bulkley Lodge facility in that community. (Google photo)

COVID-19 fourth wave blamed for ongoing Bulkley Lodge staffing issues

Northern Health had intended to return to normal admissions in September before surge in pandemic

Northern Health (NHA) says continuing staffing issues at Bulkley Lodge are attributable to surging COVID-19 cases in the Smithers Local Health Area (LHA).

In August, the health authority reported it was optimistic staffing levels would return to normal in September and a suspension of new admissions introduced in June would be lifted.

“The outlook for improved staffing levels and overall pressures on health care services was more positive in late August, but the continued surge in COVID activity, and ongoing staffing concerns, have required the temporary continuation of a pause on Bulkley Lodge admissions to ensure ongoing provision of safe, quality care,” said Eryn Collins, an NHA spokesperson.

READ MORE: Bulkley Lodge staffing problem nears end: Northern Health

Over the past two reporting periods, Sept. 5 to Sept. 11 and Sept. 12 to 18, Smithers recorded 172 new cases of COVID-19 for one of the highest daily infection rates in the province (63 per 100,000 population).

READ MORE: New Smithers COVID-19 cases down, infection rate remains high

“As the fourth wave of COVID-19 continues to impact communities and health care services and staff across our region and beyond, it is critically important to get immunized, and to follow COVID-19 restrictions and measures for preventing the spread of illness,” Collins said, noting the health authority is still working on the problem.

“Staffing levels are being continuously monitored, and existing staff at Bulkley Lodge are going above and beyond to maintain care to residents – in many cases, supported by resident’s families – and we are truly grateful for this support.

“We recognize that wait times for placement in long-term care, whether for seniors in the community or in hospital awaiting placement, are a concern. We are committed to providing quality care and support to these individuals and their families in the interim, while every effort continues to improve staffing levels and resume regular admissions.”

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