This time two years ago, a new respiratory virus was detected which soon spread across the globe, causing unprecedented changes to our everyday lives. COVID-19 continues to impact us, as does the toxic drug poisoning crisis which has now stretched into its sixth year.
As we come to the end of 2021, we must acknowledge the extreme challenges the health-care system and its people have faced. Year end is an opportunity to reflect on and recognize the many great achievements our amazing teams have accomplished.
First, I pause to share condolences with those who have experienced tragedy this year and reflect on the lives lost to these dual public health emergencies. In one way or another, we have all been touched.
Despite significant challenges, we continue to deliver health and care in our facilities and the communities we serve, and we continue to advance initiatives improving health and care across the region we serve. We have a lot to be proud of which we built together – between Island Health and our many partners.
Since the beginning of our immunization program our mass immunization teams, with the support of many community partners and the Province of BC, have administered more than 1.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine. This is the result of a tremendous effort by so many people, from logistics and planning, to public health nurses, immunizers, primary care partners and volunteers. This included many whole community immunization clinics which could not have been completed without leadership from local First Nations and municipal governments. All have worked together in support of immunization.
In 2021 more than 271,800 COVID tests were administered and 13,700 people were supported with case follow-up. These teams, led by our Public Health program, have put in countless hours to provide support for people who test positive for COVID-19.
On top of the every day transportation needs of our health care system, our logistics team has logged thousands of kilometres this year moving vaccines, COVID-19 samples and people across our vast region. They continue this work undeterred, even in the face of the extreme weather we have experienced.
Integral to Island Health’s pandemic response are acute care, long-term care, and community and primary care teams. From nurses and physician partners, to lab and medical imaging staff, to community health care workers, to those who prepare food and clean our facilities, these are the people who show up each and every day to care for our loved ones in emergency departments, ICUs, on inpatient units, in long-term care homes and in the community.
Since the release of the In Plain Sight report on Indigenous-specific racism, work on our Indigenous Specific Anti-Racism Strategy continues with Indigenous Partners. We continue to move forward in partnership with Indigenous patients, staff and communities by putting action behind our words.
Our system simply cannot function without the dedication, commitment and diligence of our people and our partners.
Last fall, alongside our valued partners, we opened the new Cowichan Valley Wellness and Recovery Centre. This space offers an integrated health-care approach which will save lives and support those who use substances. The monthly reports from the Coroners’ Service show the enormous toll the toxic drug crisis is taking. Our dedicated Mental Health and Substance Use teams continue to adapt and find new ways to support our clients in every community, as they work to support people who use substances and meet them where they are in their recovery journey.
We were also proud to announce the Victoria Primary Care Network and Westshore Community Health Centre and to open two more urgent and primary care centres in 2021 – in Victoria and Esquimalt. Once fully staffed, these new services will help deliver primary care to everyone who needs it.
In Port McNeill, we established a new primary care clinic. With the support of the local community, this health authority-owned and operated clinic will serve the community for years to come. In Nanaimo, we broke ground on a new intensive care unit at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. Once completed this will provide our critical care teams with the equipment and space they need to treat the most ill and injured people.
Work continues on the new Cowichan District Hospital Project with a completed land transfer and issued request for proposals. We are working in partnership with Indigenous communities to ensure the new hospital provides culturally-safe services and spaces including areas for ceremony, quiet reflection, room for loved ones to support patients during stays and ongoing cultural safety training for people involved in the build and day-to-day hospital operations. The new Cowichan District Hospital will be a central part of an innovative approach to delivering integrated health services across the Cowichan Valley.
Across Island Health we are working to meet current and future health needs of people in the region. This is so much more than acute care. From public health and primary care, to environmental health and community home services, a healthy community is the result of teams across and beyond Island Health.
It seems the challenges and uncertainty we are all experiencing will continue to be a part of our lives as we move into 2022. As we take time to reflect on this year and look forward to 2022, let us all keep in mind the incredibly dedicated health care professionals who have served all of us this past year. If you would like to give thanks to health care workers, you can share your appreciation with our teams by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or on our website at www.islandhealth.ca/thanks.
COVID-19 has presented its latest challenge – the Omicron variant – and we will once again stand up, together, to meet the challenge as we have done through each phase of this pandemic. While we continue to test the limits of our resilience, our teams will continue to face these challenges with courage, and as a community that cares we will do everything we can to support them as they strive to deliver excellent health and care for everyone, everywhere, every time.
- Leah Hollins, Island Health Board Chair