Cariboo patients evacuated to P.G.

Acute care, residential care and assisted living clients who were evacuated from Williams Lake have settled into Prince George care facilities.

More than 180 patients and residents from Williams Lake are currently being cared for at Northern Health facilities, with Gateway Lodge housing more than 90 of them.

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"We had some space that we were converting at Gateway that hadn't been used so between that, using common areas, doubling up in some residents' rooms where complex conditions were minimal and we felt it was safe to do so," Northern Health spokesman Steve Raper said. "We used the theatre room, multi purpose, staff room, living room, activity rooms - we've repurposed those and then we increased staffing to do that accordingly."

Each temporary resident got their own hospital bed, brought in from throughout the region.

"So it's been quite the logistical challenge but we believe between the staffing and the space that we found we're providing very exceptional care in challenging circumstances," Raper said. "It's certainly not something we want to maintain forever but we think we're able to function until such time as we can move these individuals back to their care environments in their home communities."

Northern Health staff are also providing support to about 60 assisted living and home care clients at the student residences at UNBC.

"So we've been working with UNBC and brought staff in to provide assisted living at the university," Raper said. "It's not ideal but we're working really hard to make it as comfortable as possible."

Some of the residents Raper has spoken to offered positive feedback.

"They're making the best of a tough situation, which is good to hear because we're worried about their health care and we're doing what we can to keep them safe and healthy," he added.

Northern Health also supports all wildfire evacuees who need care by providing a Health Management Service Clinic at the College of New Caledonia reception centre, including mental health and addictions support and arranging for blood work, X-ray and ultrasound services.

The clinic at the college operates daily from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and there's a registered nurse on duty around the clock.

The evacuees staying at the Northern Sport Centre can also use the clinic, as there's a 24-hour shuttle available between the two sites.

Local residents are asked to follow the usual stream of health care by accessing their own doctor's services and walk-in clinics and avoiding the emergency department at the hospital for non-emergency health issues. Patients who aren't sure whether their condition would warrant an emergency room visit or need health advice can call HealthLink BC (811), or visit www.HealthLinkBC.ca for non-emergency health information.

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