Mills Memorial Hospital is busier with COVID-19 patients now than at any other time in the pandemic. This photo shows the hospital in April 2020, during the early days of the pandemic. (File photo)

Mills Memorial Hospital is busier with COVID-19 patients now than at any other time in the pandemic. This photo shows the hospital in April 2020, during the early days of the pandemic. (File photo)

‘It’s not a hoax’: Terrace hospital busier than ever with COVID-19 cases

Hospital staff stretched thin, morale low

Over the past two weeks, Mills Memorial Hospital has been busier treating COVID-19 patients than any other time during the pandemic, leading to an erosion of staff morale as well as the hospital’s capacity to treat non-COVID patients.

Dr. Scott McCoach, an emergency physician who is deputy chief of staff and a manager of the infectious disease unit at Mills, said the hospital has been so busy some days that they have had to transfer patients to other hospitals.

In addition to the increased workload from the uptick in COVID-19 cases, the hospital is facing a staffing pinch as some staff members have had to call in sick.

“To be honest, we are struggling,” Dr. McCoach said in a Jan. 7 phone interview with The Terrace Standard. “As we get squeezed harder and harder with the cases coming in, some people are getting very burned out. We’re doing our best but it does start to weigh on the staff.”

“We are running on fumes for way too many of our shifts.”

Hospital staff feel frustrated as many of the COVID-19 patients they are treating seem to have not followed public health protocols, Dr. McCoach said.

“A lot of the cases are from people not doing their part at the societal level and they’re still partying, they’re still socializing, they’re still not taking the pandemic seriously in the way it needs to be, and unfortunately [hospital staff] are suffering because of that,” he said. “It really does threaten the stability of our health care system if COVID is allowed to run unchecked. I think people need to get that message a little bit clearer.”

“It’s not a hoax. It’s not influenza. It’s not just a flu season that will go away. It is something that needs to be taken seriously, and really the fate of our medical system remains in the public’s hands.”

However, Dr. McCoach acknowledged the difficulties that come with pandemic safety measures.

“We know people are tired. It’s not an easy thing to ask,” he said. “There are real harms from changing the way we socialize and interact but, fundamentally, this remains in [the public’s] hands.”

There have been COVID-19-related deaths at Mills Memorial Hospital, Dr. McCoach said.

“When you see people that got sick sometimes having done the right thing, doing their best to stay at home, doing their best to isolate … Seeing people like that get sick, that is very demoralizing,” he said.

Dr. McCoach said fewer than 20 hospital staff have received vaccines so far, but its arrival still provides some hope on the horizon for staff.

When asked what the public can do to help the situation and support front-line staff, beyond adhering to public health protocols, Dr. McCoach said simple gestures of gratitude would be immensely helpful.

“There is a very large team of people as well that are putting in a lot of extra hours, from pharmacy staff, physio staff, occupational therapy, the public health teams … the housekeeping staff who have gone above and beyond the call of duty,” he said. “If you know somebody, send a little message just to say thank you. It is very, very difficult and demoralizing right now, and we need the extra thank-yous.”

“Especially the nurses — they have moved mountains to make sure the community remains safe.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Toronto-based director Michelle Latimer was recently scrutinized after years of claiming she was of Algonquin and Metis descent. (CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Haida activist calls for hefty fines, jail time against those who claim to be Indigenous

Filmmaker Tamara Bell proposing the Indigenous Identity Act – to dissuade ‘Indigenous identity theft’

Prince Rupert lawyer, Donald A. Silversides has been appointed to the BC Liberals Election Organizing Committee, announced the party on Jan 21. (Contributed photo)
Don Silversides appointed to BC Liberal election organizing committee

Prince Rupert lawyer is the current BC Liberals acting president

Brett Alexander Jones is wanted on several warrants province-wide, in connection with multiple charges. Jan. 21, 2021. Kitimat RCMP photo
Kitimat RCMP searching for man wanted on several warrants province-wide

Jones is described as a five-foot 10-inches Caucasian man, with blond hair and blue eyes.

Rose Sawka, a 91-year old Acropolis Manor resident received her COVID-19 vaccination on Jan. 20, one day after an outbreak was declared at the long-term care facility. Her son Terry Sawka visited with her through the window, like she is seen in an Oct. 2020 photo. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Acropolis Manor COVID-19 cases jump to 20 confirmed

Prince Rupert long term care facility received vaccinations

Illicit drug use has spread in the Northern Health region and overdose emergency calls increased in Prince Rupert by 29.5 per cent from 2019 to 2020. (Photo:THE NEWS/files)
Overdose emergency calls in Prince Rupert spikes by 43.6 % in five years

Northern Health issues illicit drug use warnings

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Jan. 21 marks the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century, according to some. (Black Press Media file photo)
The 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century is upon us

Milestone won’t be back for another 100 years

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Mowi Canada West’s Sheep Pass salmon farm, the company’s final B.C. operation to receive certification from the Aquaculture Steward Council. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is questioning a government decision to phase out salmon farms in the Discovery Islands. (Photo supplied by Mowi Canada West)
Canadian Federation of Agriculture backs B.C. salmon farmers

Letter to prime minister calls for federal “champion” for aquaculture growth

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

Most Read