Kelowna has highest rate of opioid poisoning hospitalization

Kelowna has the dubious honour of having the highest rate of hospitalization for opioid poisoning in the country.

New data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information shows Kelowna had a rate of 36.3 hospital admissions for every 100,000 people last year.

It's the highest out of all metropolitan areas, including Vancouver which had 20.5 hospital admissions. London, Ontario came in second after Kelowna with 30.4 admissions.

“The numbers are high, the numbers are tragic but they correlate and they align [with our data] so we’re not surprised,” says Chief Medical Health Officer for Interior Health Dr. Trevor Corneil “We see this reflected in several other areas within B.C.”

The report says hospitalization for opioid poisoning has gone up dramatically across Canada, 19% in the past 2 years and 53% in the last decade.

“If you just look at the numbers, you can see the impact of the opioid crisis is increasing,” said David O’Toole, president and CEO of CIHI. “There are more patients being seen in emergency departments, more patients being hospitalized, and the lengths of stay for hospitalizations are quite long — it all adds to the burden.”

Corneil says the opioid crisis has been taking a toll on resources within Interior Health and also on patients, but adds opioid poisoning is just a sliver of the problem.

“We already see a significant number of people who use illicit substances in our emergency rooms for numerous reasons, overdose being one of them,” he said.

The report doesn’t specify how many hospitalizations are due to prescribed opioids or illegally produced opioids.

Corneil believes Kelowna tops the list because more people die at home in smaller cities which includes Kelowna. He also thinks the illicit market and trafficking route, which connects to the Lower Mainland, plays a role.