Prescription medications are an en route from a pharmacy in Tsawwassen to Anahim Lake Wednesday morning for patients stuck in the wildfire stricken communities in the West Chilcotin.
With the evacuation order coming down Saturday for Williams Lake it meant those communities no longer had access to pharmacies.
Tatla Lake family nurse practitioner Patrice Gordon told the Tribune the medications will be delivered by plane and then brought east from Anahim Lake by the RCMP to her for distribution.
“I have written the prescriptions, categorized them by community and cross-referenced them,” Gordon said from her home on Horn Lake where she lives with her partner and Chilcotin physician Dr. Rob Coatzee.
The Kleena Kleene wildfire – now 5,000 ha – is the one closest to them and as the days unfold, Gordon said they are realizing the situation is not going to be over in any “immediate” future.
“That’s why the prescription thing has become such an issue. A lot of things you can do without for a day or two and some things you can’t.”
Thinking long-term there are serious issues for people requiring regular medication, even some of the people out fighting fires are on prescriptions they need to keep up, she said.
“A lot of elders are adamantly staying in their communities and we respect those choices but they also need some medications.”
Gordon thought it would have taken four phone calls and it would be all set, but it was a collosal undertaking to organize the prescription plan.
The geography is also a challenge.
There are multiple little communities in the Chilcotin and to some there is no direct access from the clinic in Tatla Lake, particularly to Nemiah Valley.
“People are going in by road to Nemiah at the east end but from the west end we cannot send anyone reliably with medications because it is through an evacuated area.”
Hopefully the plan will all work, she added.
“It’s so great. The RCMP are so helpful, the Shoppers Drug Mart in Tsawsassen of all places is just bending over backwards to accommodate us, and Pacific Coastal is flying the prescriptions up.”
And if the RCMP aren’t able to bring the medications then someone in Anahim Lake in the health care field will deliver them, while Anahim Lake’s nurse will deliver to her community and to Nimpo Lake.
Once she has the medications she will deliver them to Tatla Lake, Chilanko Forks, Tsi Del Del, then she will try to co-ordinate with the homecare nurse from Tl’etinqox to meet her part way to pick up the medications for Tl’etinqox and Yunesit’in.
“It’s like a relay race,” she chuckled. “Everybody is standing by waiting for the baton.”
Thankfully nurse practitioners can write prescriptions, she added.
“We are also trying to support the first aid workers and on Tuesday morning I made a trip to the staging area for the Kleena Kleene fire to meet with Colton, the level three occupational first aid person, who is there with the emergency transport vehicle.”
Gordon brought him some masks because it is so smoky, replenished his oxygen and made sure he was OK.
“We always go over the communication details because if the phones go down then we use the radio and if the radio isn’t working there are people to call that can come and contact Rob and I we tell them.”
It’s about having a contingency on your contingency plan because communication is the biggest challenge, she added.
“We are pretty well supplied and I have stock order for medications such ventolin puffers which we are going through like nobody’s business because anyone even with the mildest asthma is aggravated by all the smoke.”
Through it all, Gordon said there have been no big emergencies, but there have been some situations that force everyone to redefine what an urgency is.
One man called and told Gordon he was supposed to have staples removed from an operative procedure seven days earlier, and while it wasn’t an emergency and he did not want to “waste” their time he wondered what he should do because he didn’t know how to take them out.
“He said if they were sutures he could cut them out, so I told him I would meet him at the clinic where I had the proper appliance.”
Funny enough when she packed the staple remover initially she wondered if she would even need it.
“There have been moments that make your blood pressure go up. We’ve been without power for some of the time, as well as no phones. The internet goes in and out and that’s hard because that’s how I have arranged the prescriptions.”
Fortunately they have a good radio system and everyone in the area has settled into using it.
“After this is all over we are going to brainstorm about ways to make our communication system a little bit more streamlined, even though it’s actually worked pretty well.”
Gordon is originally from Nakusp, B.C. She has also gone with Canadian Red Cross to various disasters, in cluding to Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis and Nepal during the earthquake.
In a previous interview last week she told the Tribune the wildfire experience has been much like going with the Red Cross.
But this time it’s impacting the communities where she lives and works.