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Caring for our neighbours during the BC wildfires


A heat dome hit British Columbia in late summer 2021 and wildfires forced hundreds of people most in need of support and protection to evacuate from their long-term care homes in the Interior and the North.

With little more than 24-hour’s notice in some cases, residents were quickly evacuated from communities like Merritt, Vernon, Armstrong, Salmon Arm and Kelowna to seven sites across VCH and Providence Health.

The response from VCH’s teams was swift, efficient and carried out with the needs of each resident top of mind. Residents were matched to the best location in the Lower Mainland that would meet their specific needs, including nutrition, medication and equipment.  

Residents travelled between five and 15 hours by plane or bus, through heat, smoke and delays caused by road accidents. At the receiving end, health-care workers completed quick medical assessments of the residents as soon as they arrived and moved some to hospital.

The receiving teams worked hard to meet the residents’ needs and requests, like a favorite meal or ordering a cable station with their TV show. The staff made a point of getting to know what was most important and possible in the moment. “We didn’t know how long they’d be with us, so we needed to get to know them right away. That’s our caring culture at VCH. It’s getting to know the individuals among the vulnerable population, not just because they’re in long-term care, but because they left with nothing for a new, strange place with unfamiliar people”, said Jo-Ann Tait, Executive Director for Long-term Care.

Staff prioritized creating a welcoming and caring environment for 159 of those residents who left comfort, certainty and familiarity back in their home communities; some who did so without having had a chance to say goodbye to families who were also evacuating.

This story is part of the 2021/22 VCH Impact Report, which features the critical role of health care workers during this extraordinary time. The report highlights our programs and initiatives, emphasizing the strength of our values and showing our commitment to delivering exceptional care.

Read our Impact Report 2021/2022

Summer 2022: Seasonal and hazard plans

After last year’s experience during the extreme heat event, teams throughout VCH have been planning ahead to prepare for, mitigate, respond to and recover from seasonal hazards and emergencies. 

Learn more about VCH seasonal readiness planning

SOURCE: Caring for our neighbours during the BC wildfires ( )
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