KAMLOOPS - Royal Inland Hospital was already at capacity before wildfire season started, but with health care facilities and hospitals in the Interior closing and evacuating due to wildfires, the Kamloops hospital is trying to accomodate any patients they can.
Interior Health Authority CEO Chris Mazurkewich says nearly 400 people in the wildfire-affected areas have been moved from health facilities in those regions to hospitals or assisted living facilities in Kamloops and Prince George.
"We’ve never moved that many people and I've been working out here for a few decades," Mazurkewich says.
Hospitals in Ashcroft and 100 Mile House, along with the health centre in Alexis Creek have all been closed and the Williams Lake hospital is working with extremely limited operations including an open emergency room.
Mazurkewich says well over 150 beds have been moved to help accomodate health centres in the province experiencing an influx of patients due to evacuations.
"I was here in 2003 with the Barriere fire and the Kelowna fire, and there were many other fires the following year as well," Mazurkewich says. "This one has more fires, this has actually been more difficult to deal with than those years were."
Royal Inland Hospital is full, and has been for a few months, along with Kelowna General Hospital which is prepared to take in patients if the wildfire situation deteriorates even more.
"We're using every nook and cranny we can find within facilities within Interior Health," Mazurkewich says.
If things for any reason get worse, facilities in the Lower Mainland have also offered assistance.
B.C. Wildfire says the estimated number of evacuees in the province is now around 14,365.
The Ashcroft Reserve Fire is estimated to be 7,300 hectares and the Princeton fire is estimated at 2,700 hectares. Today, July 11, there are 219 fires burning across the province and chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek says 35 new blazes started yesterday.
"We are expecting a continuation of hot and dry conditions across the south," Skrepnek says.
The blazes have caused smoke to blow across the Interior and special air quality statements have been issued in Kamloops and the Okanagan, where the AQHI values are between 7 and 8, or a high health risk.
Medical health officer Dr. Kamran Golmohammadi says people with chronic health issues, the elderly and children should stay indoors as much as possible in the affected areas, particularly Williams Lake and Kamloops.
"Have their rescue medications available to them and use them as they are instructed, but it's very important for them to watch their symptoms and if their symptoms get worse... they need to seek medical attention," Golmohammadi says. "We are continuing to monitor the situation in all communities... evacuation remains always the least favourable and last resort, and we're hoping to keep that for those communities that are directly affected by forest fires."
Mazurkewich says numbers are not yet available for patients who have been treated for symptoms related to poor air quality.
Interior Health is also asking any staff members displaced by the wildfire to contact them if they can work in other areas.
– This story was updated at 4:07 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017, to correct the sentence "directed effectly" to "directly affected".
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