‘We’ve had patients die waiting for a bed’: Vancouver Island doctors frustrated with the unvaccinated

Victoria –

An emergency room doctor in Victoria says patients who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 are causing unnecessary delays and even deaths in the health-care system.

“We’ve had patients die on hold waiting for 911. We’ve had patients die waiting for a bed,” Michelle Tousignant said Wednesday. “I don’t know what a rock bottom is if we’re not there already.” 

The vast majority of COVID-19 patients in intensive care are unvaccinated. With the Delta variant spreading, Dr. David Forrest, who works in the intensive care unit at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, worries we’re far from rock bottom.

“I’m extremely worried to be perfectly honest,” said Forrest, speaking from the hospital’s ICU Wednesday. “I think that there is a significant likelihood that we’re going to continue to see a rise in cases in the hospital.”

Tousignant has been on medical leave for a few months because of a concussion. She hopes to return to work soon, but in the meantime, she’s taken to social media to educate people about the safety of vaccines as well as their effectiveness.

She says it’s important some of the misinformation online is counteracted by accurate information, and recognizes that the internet has become a major source of information for many people.

A Facebook post she made last week advocating for the importance of vaccines and setting out the impact on the health-care system has been seen by more than 50,000 people.

Both she and Forrest say the recent anti-vaccine protests outside hospitals across B.C., including in Nanaimo, were very demoralizing for health-care workers.

“I’m frustrated. I’m angry about it frankly,” said Forrest.

Tousignant says that kind of backlash towards health-care workers is adding to the immense stress they’re already under during the pandemic.

“One of the reasons that we have the staff shortages that we have is the degree of burnout, the degree of stress.”

Their frustration comes a day after the province announced that more surgeries are being delayed because the system is overloaded and that it’s moving patients from Northern Health to the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island because ICUs up there are full.  

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