At the conclusion of a Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako board meeting on Sept. 23, an emotional discussion was had amongst board members regarding the province-wide vaccine mandate, and ways to begin bringing the community back together.
The main point of the discussion was to make sure, as elected leaders in the community, that the board make efforts to provide a calm voice, and provide citizens with the proper information then need to make informed decisions for themselves in an effort to defuse the current civil unrest facing the region.
Houston Mayor Shane Brienen stated that he believes it’s important when dealing with complaints, whether they be frustrations about the current mandates or pleas to increase the mandates further, to allow citizens to speak their minds and not be combative or corrective when responding.
The overall outcome of the discussion was to find ways to shift the focus away from a divisive debate about vaccines, and towards coming together as a community to support the overwhelmed hospitals and health care workers in the area.
Testimonies were made by several board members expressing sadness and worry about how divided the community is as a result of the vaccine mandate.
Burns Lake Mayor Dolores Funk expressed her distraught with how divided the community is in terms of following government mandates. She told board members that the only way to get through this crisis is by putting aside differences in opinion, and recognizing the reality that the path the provincial government has chosen to go down to get past the pandemic and return to normal life will only work if the community comes together.
Vanderhoof Mayor and Chair of the Board Gerry Thiessen outlined the issues that hospitals are facing, stating that the measures put in place by B.C.’s Health Ministry to transport severely ill COVID-19 patients from northern hospitals to southern hospitals are due to the fact that Northern Health hospitals are already overstretched. Furthermore, it’s anticipated that the problem will continue to get worse over the coming weeks as case counts continue to be an issue.
“My fear is that someone will break their leg or sustain any kind of injury and not be able to receive the care they need because our hospitals are so overwhelmed,” said Thiessen.
Brienen echoed this statement, saying that hospitals are struggling and surgeries are being pushed back due to the amount of new COVID-19 cases in the area.
Director of Area B in Burns Lake Michael Riis-Christianson also made a statement, telling the board that he has three family members who work in the medical community, all three of whom come home in tears on a daily basis. “These people are tired, overworked and overwhelmed,” he said.
The board agreed that getting a vaccine is a personal choice that cannot be forced, but was adamant that no matter where you stand personally on the matter, the focus on helping hospitals in the region through this crisis needs to be a priority.
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