Natural Disaster Champions: West Kelowna evacuation a team effort

June 10, 2022

Brookhaven's Chronic Behavioural Disorder unit staff celebrate a resident's 80th birthday while evacuated at Creekstone Manor in North Vancouver in August 2021.

In August 2021, the Brookhaven Care Centre team in West Kelowna came together in extraordinary measures to safely evacuate all 104 of their residents from the risk of wildfire. 

Residents boarded a series of buses, then an airplane, to arrive at their destinations in Vancouver. Several staff accompanied the residents on the journey, a few working continuously for 24 hours to ensure everyone was safe and settled into their temporary homes. One dedicated health-care aide even slept on the floor of the nursing unit the first night, keeping close by in case his residents needed him. 

Left to right: Pam Gill, LPN and Keegan Dufresne.

Pam Gill, LPN (left) and Keegan Dufresne, Long-Term Care Aide

A number of team members continued to live on-site with the residents, while others travelled back and forth between the Interior and the coast for a number of weeks. The efforts staff put in to make the best of the experience were incredible. They took time to decorate the residents’ bedrooms with posters and comfort items, and even hosted an 80th birthday party and 60th wedding anniversary celebration. These staff gave all their love and attention to their residents while being separated from their own homes and families.

The staff who stayed behind were no less dedicated, taking great care in cleaning the site top to bottom and preparing everything for the happy return of their residents.

Brookhaven Care Centre staff member Tana and resident Mary return home.

A triumphant return for Brookhaven Care Centre staff member Tana (top) and resident Mary.

“I am constantly inspired by the incredible team that we have at Brookhaven, and how much they genuinely care about their residents,” said Renee Gauthier, Manager, Clinical Operations.

“It is because of their compassion and dedication that our vulnerable seniors were kept safe from greater distress during this emergency situation. While there were bumps and lessons learned, the competence, collaboration and humour of this team was commendable at every step of the way. I am so very proud of them!”

Renee Gauthier, Manager, Clinical Operations, Brookhaven Care Centre.

Renee Gauthier, Manager, Clinical Operations, Brookhaven Care Centre is constantly inspired by the Brookhaven team.


Natural Disaster Champions series

In 2021, the B.C. Interior region experienced a natural disaster season like none other. Interior Health staff stepped up and came together to support each other, patients, friends, family and communities. We’re sharing the stories of staff members reflecting on how being prepared – at home and at work – can make all the difference when minutes matter.

View more stories in the series


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