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Patients say they couldn't get COVID booster while in Greater Victoria hospitals

After hearing complaints, Island Health now says COVID vaccination will be offered once a month to patients at Gorge Road Hospital.
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Gorge Road Hospital. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

 

Patients who contracted COVID-19 at Gorge Road Hospital say they tried in vain to get booster shots prior to a breakout of infections on the rehabilitation wing during the holidays. 

Leslie Locke, 74, said she has tried to get the COVID-19 vaccine since breaking her leg and being admitted to Royal Jubilee and Victoria General hospitals prior to ending up in Gorge Road Hospital’s low-intensity rehab unit. 

“I’ve been trying, really trying,” said Locke. “They came and gave me the flu shot no problem, I didn’t even ask for it, but I asked for the COVID booster and they said ‘they’re not doing that right now.’ ” Locke said she asked for a booster at all three hospitals. 

Her roommate, who asked not to be named, was admitted to Royal Jubilee Hospital in the spring and said she has tried since August to get her booster. 

“After trying unsuccessfully for four months to get a booster, I got COVID a week before Christmas,” said the patient. It was a “rough” bout of the virus during which she was heavily congested. Also, her husband was unable to visit. 

Both women, former provincial ­government employees, said they caught the virus and are now ­building immunity “the hard way.” They are among seven residents who tested ­positive for COVID-19 from Dec. 17 to 26. 

Island Health’s patient care quality office said it is investigating. 

“Island Health is aware of one patient’s concerns with access to the COVID-19 vaccine at the Gorge Road Hospital,” said the health authority in a statement. “Due to privacy concerns, we cannot speak to specific patient details. We are looking into their concerns and will continue to follow-up with them.” 

Island Health said all admitted Gorge Road Hospital patients can “now” get their most up-to-date COVID vaccine. 

“To ensure all admitted patients at the Gorge Road Hospital receive their most up-to-date COVID-19 vaccine, there is now a process in place whereby the COVID-19 vaccine is offered once per month to all eligible patients,” Island Health said Monday. “This process ensures proper checking of vaccine records from multiple sources,” said the health authority. “Admitted patients are encouraged to speak with their care team about getting their next COVID-19 vaccine dose.” 

“It’s just dumb,” Locke said of the inability to get a COVID vaccine booster at Gorge Road Hospital until recently.

She said she was told by staff that COVID vaccinations would have to be obtained at pharamcies. 

The unnamed patient, who was placed on COVID watch Dec. 18 because of contact she had with an infected person, tested positive days later. Her experience in trying to get a booster shot was similar to Locke’s. 

In late August, after the she was admitted to Royal Jubilee in the spring, she received an automated message from the province’s GetVaccinated system that she was due for her COVID booster. 

“I got the flu shot no problem but was told I needed to get the COVID booster at a pharmacy,” said the patient. As part of the provincial COVID-19 vaccine rollout, first and second shots as well as boosters have been administered via public health clinics and pharmacies. 

There was no offer of assistance with transportation or arrangements to a COVID booster, she said. 

“Finally RJH offered to arrange a public health nurse to administer the booster, but I was moved to Gorge Skyview before that happened,” she said in an email. “At Gorge I was again told to arrange the booster with the pharmacy.” 

“As you can imagine it’s pretty difficult for me to book an appointment at a pharmacy and figure out how to get there,” she said. “The hospital didn’t offer any help and staff couldn’t tell me who would pay for the Medivan.” 

It’s her understanding that staff were acting on “higher-up Island Health direction” and were equally frustrated, she said. 

Both roommates have now recovered and restrictions on their room were lifted Sunday. 

Locke and her roommate said they are hopeful others will benefit from them telling their story. 

Beyond the COVID-vaccine problem, the patients praised other care and acts of kindness. 

Nurses canvassed staff for donations and from that presented each patient with a “delightful stocking Christmas morning filled with useful little gifts, chocolates and a mandarin in the toe,” Locke said. An ornament decorated the stocking. Yet another nurse decorated the hospital wards. 

ceharnett@timescolonist.com