Healthy Living in the North

Getting ready for fire season

The NH Emergency Management team posing.

The NH Emergency Management team. L – R: Amber Frizzi, Coordinator; Jim Fitzpatrick, Director; and Jana Hargreaves, Coordinator.

Northern Health’s Emergency Management team is working hard to make sure the North is prepared for possible future fire seasons.

Using “lessons learned” from the 2017 and 2018 wildfires, they’ve created evacuation guides for hospitals, care homes, and other Northern Health facilities, and they’re reviewing and updating emergency response plans as well.

They’re also working with the City of Prince George on a mock evacuation exercise for May 2019 — this will be an annual event.

As well, they’re collaborating with the provincial emergency group and Interior Health on “mutual aid” arrangements to use each other’s emergency preparedness staff if needed.

Finally, Northern Health is taking part in “spring readiness” forums for emergency decision makers throughout the North, with the aim of ensuring everyone’s safety in an emergency.

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Hemodialysis Collaboration During the 2017 Wildfires

A group of hemodialysis staff.On July 8, 2017 the hemodialysis unit at the University Hospital of Northern BC (UHNBC) in Prince George received a call from the charge nurse at Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake. The town had been placed on evacuation alert due to the wildfires, and they may need to transfer 18 patients to Prince George. That call started a sequence of events which brought together two hemodialysis units from different health authorities and showcased the collaboration and dedication of health care practitioners.

Later on July 8, Iqwinder Mangat, the head nurse for hemodialysis, spoke with a director at Interior Health where she learned that transferring the patients to Prince George was plan B, and Kamloops was their plan A. A teleconference at 6:30pm on July 9 confirmed that they were proceeding with plan B and 18 hemodialysis patients were being evacuated to Prince George. An evacuate order for Williams Lake was imminent and they needed to evacuate patients as soon as possible.

By the time Mangat got off the teleconference call, the hemodialysis unit at UHNBC was already closed. She came in to the unit to look at the patient schedule for the next day to free up spots for the Williams Lake patients. A renal tech also came in to assist with moving dialysis supplies to prepare for the additional patients. The next morning, Mangat received calls from the Williams Lake patients to schedule their dialysis treatments, and they were slotted into available spots. Their quick thinking and planning made it so all scheduled patient treatments could carry on as normal.

The hemodialysis unit at UHNBC welcomed staff deployed from the Cariboo Memorial Hospital hemodialysis unit to work with them on the unit. Due to the difference in dialysis machines used in the two hospitals, they first had to undergo training on the machines. Once the Williams Lake nurses were comfortable using the machines, one UHNBC nurse was paired with them to help troubleshoot and support the Williams Lake staff.

By moving UHNBC patients into the main room and moving overflow patients to the Parkwood Independent Dialysis Unit, they set up a small dialysis unit within the hemodialysis unit operating five chairs from 7:00am – 7:00pm to support the Williams Lake patients. Accompanied by one UHNBC nurse, the nurses from Williams Lake staffed the unit, allowing them to work with patients they were familiar with. It was a welcome sight for both staff and patients and brought back a sense of normalcy in such a stressful time.

The entire team worked together collaboratively and offered support and assistance where they could. Managers took on administrative duties, emergency operation centre meetings, and HR tasks usually designated to clinical practice leads or head nurses. Nursing unit clerks were shared between the kidney clinic and hemodialysis unit, and staff were more than willing to work extra shifts when needed to ensure patients were receiving treatments.

Numerous staff and physicians brought in food, cards, flowers, and treats to thank everyone for their contributions and make the Williams Lake nurses feel welcome and part of the team. Staff’s extra support and dedication helped to make the hemodialysis unit function effectively despite the additional patients and pressures. They were willing to cancel vacation, work overtime, assist other facilitates, and work together in any way they could.

One telephone call changed the entire course of the 2017 summer for the hemodialysis staff, managers, and physicians. They welcomed 18 additional patients, and new staff all within a matter of days with no disruption to services. It demonstrated the strength of their resolve and showcased their collaborative nature, and was an experience that left a lasting impression on everyone involved.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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In photos: A look at BC wildfires

For information and resources about wildfires and your health, visit our wildfire information page on the Northern Health website.

A helicopter delivering water for aerial firefighting near Chetwynd in 2017.

Photo provided by Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Operations and Rural Development.

(Above) A helicopter delivering water for aerial firefighting (also known as a helicopter bucket) outside of Chetwynd, BC July 23 2017. To see the wildfires in your area, view the up-to-date map of BC active wildfires.

Wildfire burning near Tete Jaune Cache in 2017.

Photo provided by Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Operations and Rural Development.

(Above) Aerial view of a wildfire 5km east of Tete Jaune Cache (Near McBride). If you see a haze, smell smoke or know of a wildfire in your area, check the current air quality advisories in your area to see whether you should limit your time outdoors.

A BC Wildfire service member working at a blaze outside Williams Lake in 2017.

Photo provided by Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Operations and Rural Development.

(Above) BC Wildfire service member working at a blaze outside of Williams Lake, July 28 2017. For your safety during the wildfire season, check out the wildfire preparedness information page on Emergency info BC.

Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.

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