The Tofino General Hospital on Saturday, March 21, 2020. (Nora O’Malley photo)

The Tofino General Hospital on Saturday, March 21, 2020. (Nora O’Malley photo)

COVID-19: Tofino’s top doctor makes urgent appeal to new visitors

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District and City of Port Alberni unite with West Coast communities.

Tofino General Hospital chief of staff Dr. Carrie Marshall made an urgent appeal to the public on March 20 over the local airwaves to protect her small West Coast community from the threat of COVID-19.

“I think this is an unprecedented medical emergency. Everybody needs to take it seriously,” said Dr. Marshall in an interview with Tuff City Radio’s Cameron Dennison.

“There is no overstating the seriousness of this. At the end of the day if we have over-called this, if people have felt like we have overreacted, I am willing to take that on my shoulders because standing in the hospital and waiting for this to come, you’re not going to find a health care provider in this country that is saying, ‘We don’t really need to take this seriously’. All of us are standing there, we are ready for the fight. What we really need is the public to join us,” she said.

Dr. Marshall oversees the aging Tofino hospital, which has 10 in-patient beds and five stretchers. She said she is frustrated with trying to prepare for the world pandemic while simultaneously seeing at least 50 per cent of the patients who are non-residents.

“I will say openly that I called people that I knew personally and begged them to shut down. If you do not shut down and if you continue to violate these principles of infection, you will annihilate my staff,” Marshall voiced.

“I feel very protective of keeping that hospital up and running. If you are going to wipe out four out of six doctors, that’s a big problem,” she continued.

On March 17, the District of Tofino, Tourism Tofino, and the Tofino Chamber of Commerce released a joint statement asking visitors to make their ways home, to postpone upcoming trips, and to let our community prepare for the arrival of COVID-19. Authorities in Ucluelet released a similar joint statement the next day. Ahousaht First Nation has closed its community to non-residents and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation has barricaded the entrance to their community from non-residents for then next 14 days.

On March 21, the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) and City of Port Alberni united with West Coast communities in their urgent request to visitors not to travel to Tofino, Ucluelet, Long Beach, Toquaht, Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ, Tla-o-qui-aht, Ahousaht, Bamfield, Huu-ay-aht and Uchucklesaht until further notice.

“Personal health and safety of our residents is the driving force behind this request. Communities on the West Coast have limited health care resources to serve their residents. Additional visitors and tourists to the area at this time will impact the health and safety of these communities and put additional strains on their already limited health care system. It is extremely difficult for these communities to self-isolate if visitors and tourists continue to travel to the area,” states the March 21 ACRD media release.

Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne posted a statement on social media appealing to “the last five per cent” of visitors who have decided to take trips to the area amidst the global pandemic.

“We are now deep in the trenches getting ready to find out next week how effective the measures being taken this week are. We are preparing for the worst,” mayor Osborne wrote.

“For an accommodation business to stay open to new visitors at this time is demoralizing and disrespectful. The hospital needs all our love and support right now, including removing all sources of unnecessary burden,” Osborne wrote.

“I’m urging everyone to join the fight so we do not put our community in a place where we have to divert critical resources to enforce a State of Local Emergency. I’m not asking for shaming, in fact I’m begging you not to shame people or businesses, instead I’m asking you all to embrace the fact that it’s not too late to join the fight,” Tofino’s mayor said.

Dr. Marshall could not confirm or deny that any cases of COVID-19 had surfaced in Tofino as of March 20.

“What the bottom line is, everyone in Tofino should assume that there are positive cases. We should assume that it is here and we should all be following the same guidelines, which is social distancing, social isolating and quarantine if you have symptoms,” Dr. Marshall said.



nora.omalley@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

READ: Highway 4 Kennedy Hill project scaled back

READ: B.C.’s top doctor orders immediate closure of salons, spas and other personal services

PHOTOS: Residents rescue dolphins stranded near Powell River

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional DistrictCoronavirusHospitalsTofino,ucluelet

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The old home at 785 Island Rd. is coming down as the developer was unable to find a feasible business case to save it. (Black Press Media File Photo)
With no takers to move old Oak Bay home, teardown begins

‘We tried a last hurrah,’ developer says

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes delivers the inaugural address at council’s swearing-in ceremony in November 2018. The ceremony included blessings from representatives of two Christian churches. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes delivers the inaugural address at council’s swearing-in ceremony in November, 2018. The ceremony included blessings from representatives of two Christian churches – a fact highlighted in a report released by the BC Humanist Associaton on Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
Christian-based prayer at inaugural Vancouver Island council meetings violates court ruling

Blessings violate Supreme Court decision that prayer in council is discriminatory

Bystanders attend to a cyclist who is knocked to the pavement of Oak Bay Avenue. Witnesses say the cyclist was knocked off their bike in a dooring incident on Oak Bay Avenue at Fell Street at around 12:40 p.m. on Wednesday. 
(Daniel Opden Dries Photo)
UPDATED: VicPD tickets driver for ‘dooring’ cyclist on Oak Bay Avenue

Incident occurred at Oak Bay Avenue and Fell Street

The BCCDC has added WestJet flight 3349 on Nov. 23 to its flight exposure list. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)
New COVID-19 exposure on WestJet flight from Edmonton to Victoria

The BCCDC has added WestJet flight 3349 on Nov. 23 to its flight exposure list

Karl Ablack, chair of the Port Renfrew Recovery Task Force, says visitors should steer clear of the community after the second wave of COVID has begun to hit across the province. (Black Press Media file photo)
Port Renfrew, Pacheedaht First Nation asks visitors to steer clear of community again

Tight-knit community of 400 has yet to report single case of COVID

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 24

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(AP Photo/Haven Daley)
POLL: Do you think the current COVID-19 restrictions should continue beyond Dec. 7?

One week into the new restrictions to curtail the spread of the… Continue reading

FILE - This May 4, 2020, file photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, shows the first patient enrolled in Pfizer's COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.  Pfizer announced Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, more results in its ongoing coronavirus vaccine study that suggest the shots are 95% effective a month after the first dose. (Courtesy of University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP, File)
VIDEO: B.C. planning for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the first weeks of 2021

The question of who will get the vaccine first relies on Canada’s ethical framework

This undated photo issued by the University of Oxford shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
Canada can make vaccines, just not the ones leading the COVID-19 race

Canada has spent more than $1 billion to pre-order seven different developing COVID-19 vaccines

British Columbia Premier John Horgan speaks during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. Horgan is set to introduce his NDP government’s new cabinet Thursday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP cabinet built to tackle pandemic, economic recovery, says former premier

Seven former NDP cabinet ministers didn’t seek re-election, creating vacancies in several high-profile portfolios

The COVID-19 test centre at Peace Arch Hospital is located on the building’s south side. (Tracy Holmes photo)
B.C. woman calls for consistency in COVID-19 post-test messaging

‘Could we just get one thing straight?’ asks Surrey’s Deb Antifaev

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Most Read