Monday’s Lakeland sawmill tragedy provides evidence that British Columbia’s hospitals are routinely stressed to the breaking point and incapable of responding adequately to a major emergency.
Monday’s sawmill fire resulted in 24 casualties. Six were hospitalized in Prince George and 13 were treated and released. Four others were airlifted to intensive care units in Vancouver, Victoria and Edmonton.
That health authorities were forced to transport seriously injured people to three separate facilities, each about 700 km from the accident scene, indicates the paucity of emergency resources in British Columbia’s interior. However, it also demonstrates that lower mainland facilities have little or no idle capacity for response to disaster, whether natural or caused by human activity.
Overcrowded ERs may be the most visible but intensive care units in and near Vancouver routinely operate at, or over, capacity. Were a ‘Code Orange’ event, one involving mass casualties, to occur, medical personnel and facilities would be overwhelmed. There is no spare capacity for appropriate healthcare response to disaster.
This duplicates the provincial government’s earthquake preparedness in schools. Their main action is to pray that no event occurs to test the readiness for any form of calamity.