Green Party MLA Adam Olsen says Gulf Islands residents want visitors stopped but goods and services to continue. (Hansard TV)

Green Party MLA Adam Olsen says Gulf Islands residents want visitors stopped but goods and services to continue. (Hansard TV)

MLA Adam Olsen fears COVID-19 will overwhelm medical facilities on Gulf Islands

Residents call for a ban on external contact other than shipments of essentials

MLA Adam Olsen says residents living on the Gulf Islands in his riding of Saanich North and the Islands fear that COVID-19 could quickly overwhelm the local health infrastructure.

“The concern primarily lies with the fact that their health care infrastructure over there could be overwhelmed very quickly,” he said. “It’s thin at best.”

Olsen said residents have become increasingly concerned about the situation and he has heard growing, “desperate” calls to completely close off the islands to everything except for shipments necessary to sustain life.

“The call has been to start to do what Ucluelet’s and Tofino’s mayors have done,” he said. “They have said, ‘please stay away from our communities. No more external contacts other than shipments coming in.’”

The riding includes Salt Spring Island, Galiano Island, Mayne Island, Saturna Island, as well as North Pender and South Pender Island.

RELATED: No plans to shut off isolated B.C. communities from COVID-19, Adrian Dix says

Available medical care on those islands vary, said Olsen. “They are all different, all the way from a full hospital on Salt Spring Island down to a very small clinic that operates whenever nurses and doctors can get there on Saturna,” he said. “They all have some level of health infrastructure, but it is fragile and easily overwhelmed.”

Olsen said those islands along with the Saanich Peninsula were already suffering from a shortage of family doctors and COVID-19 is exposing past failures. “We are really, really testing the strength of our health care system, and exposing its weaknesses, unlike anybody had ever expected,” he said. “My hope is that we, as we get through this, can look at this in a very honest way. What worked? What didn’t and how do we improve to ensure the resilience and sustainability of our communities.”

Practically, the ferry routes connecting Greater Vancouver and Greater Victoria with the islands provide what Olsen calls a “choke-point” that would allow for such a measure. “It’s a point where you can maintain some control,” he said. “On the other hand, I have had emails from constituents, saying ‘don’t shut that ferry down. It’s our only way off the islands.’ So it’s a messy situation as it is everywhere, trying to determine how to do it.”

As for now, the provincial government has no plans to isolate communities looking to keep visitors and their potential viruses out.

Olsen had raised the issue earlier this week.

“Has the ministry considered barring or restricting access to isolate, rural and at-risk communities in a way that will allow them to continue to receive goods to sustain themselves but also that may stop the spread into those communities?” Olsen asked Health Minister Adrian Dix.

Dix didn’t answer directly, referring to local and regional plans for emergency preparedness in communities.

“No matter where you live, whether it’s in Alert Bay or in Abbotsford, whether it’s in Vanderhoof or Vancouver, you can catch COVID-19, wherever you are, no matter what your age,” Dix said. “If you’re a teenager or you’re 60, you can pass on COVID-19.”

Looking at the big picture, Olsen sees British Columbia and the rest of Canada right on the “precipice of a complete lockdown.” Government officials would prefer if British Columbians and Canadians were to follow the announced restrictions, said Olsen. “But my sense of it is that they are very close to a full enforcement.”

If so, Olsen said such an enforcement would pose multiple challenges. “How do you enforce that? What level of enforcement? It has been a staged process. Probably what they are hoping for is for public and social compliance rather than the necessity to enforce because that adds a whole lot of other challenges to the government.”

Overall, Olsen urges constituents to heed the advice of public health officials everywhere. “Stay home, stay away from people as much as possible, and if you are sick, remove yourself even further. This is an extreme public health situation.”


Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner

CoronavirusSaanich Peninsula

Just Posted

Smaller egg farmers find themselves in a David and Goliath situation when it comes to major producers and chain-grocery store shelf space. (Citizen file)
Vancouver Island egg producer cries foul over ‘Island’ label

Egg farmer frustrated with regulations allowing mainland-laid eggs to be labelled ‘Island’

Seiners fill the waters between Comox and Nanoose Bay during roe herring fishery. file photo, Pacific Wild
Quota debate heats up on the eve of Vancouver Island herring fishery

Industry and conservationists weigh in how much catch should be allowed as DFO decision coming soon

Greater Victoria is defying national and provincial employment trends as the unemployment rate in December dropped to 5.8 per cent. (Black Press Media File)
Dropping unemployment rate in Greater Victoria defies national and provincial picture

Broader trends such as high youth unemployment are solidifying

Metchosin Mayor John Ranns (Black Press Media file photo)
Charity’s plan to flip tax-exempt greenspace to development angers Metchosin mayor

Boys and Girls Club of Greater Victoria tight-lipped on land plans

North Cowichan Mayor Al SIebring helps Chris Istace to put up a tent at the site of one of the homeless camps installed in 2020. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Editorial: We’re on the right path to address homelessness

Housing first model can only help improve the situation

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
536 COVID cases, 7 deaths reported as B.C. finds its first case of South African variant

Henry said 69,746 people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Black Press media file
Port McNeill driver tells police he thought the pandemic meant no breathalyzers

Suspect facing criminal charges after breathalyzer readings in excess of 3.5 times the legal limit

Qualicum Beach council wants dogs on a leash when at the town’s cemetery. (Google Map)
Qualicum Beach council wants dogs leashed if owners are visiting town cemetery

Signage to be posted at entrance after dog spotted chewing decorations at children’s grave

Air conditioning units atop The Summit at Quadra Village have been the source of a hum that made life at home miserable in summer for some nearby residents. The Capital Regional Hospital Board is investing in more technology to help remedy the problem. (Photo dHK Architects)
Work to resolve The Summit hum in Victoria continues through winter

Neighbours of Hillside Avenue care facility won’t know until spring whether solutions work

A $100,000 contribution by the BC Marine Parks Forever Society will expand Octopus Island Provincial Park on the northeast side of Quadra Island. BC Parks photo
New island added to Octopus Islands Marine Park

Province acquires more land for protected Island chain in the Campbell River area

Forestry companies in B.C. agree to abide by the cedar protocols based on traditional laws of the First Nation members of the Nanwakolas Council. (Photo courtesy, Nanwakolas Council)
Landmark deal sees B.C. forest firms treat big cedars like a First Nation would

Western Forest Products, Interfor among companies to adapt declaration drafted by Nanwakolas Council

A northern resident killer whale shows injuries sustained by a collision with a vessel in B.C. waters. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Coast Guard ramps up protections for B.C. whales

First-ever Marine Mammal Desk will enhance cetacean reporting and enforcement

Two toucans sit on tree at an unidentified zoo. (Pixabay.com)
BC SPCA calls for ban on exotic animal trade after 50 parrots, toucans pass through YVR

One toucan was found dead and several others were without food

Most Read