Horgan says he’s spoken to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney about the COVID situation and B.C. will help in any way it can. But Horgan says the focus for B.C. is ensuring that its intensive care units don’t become overwhelmed with COVID patients and force the cancellation of more surgeries.
The bed-occupancy rate in B.C. hospitals’ ICU wards was at 86 per cent on Friday and ICUs in two of the largest health regions were near 100 per cent capacity.
Beds in the regular intensive care units in Interior Health region hospitals were 98 per cent occupied Friday, followed by the Vancouver Coastal Health region, at 95 per cent, according to data released by the Health Ministry. Fraser Health had 82 per cent occupancy, Island Health 76 per cent and Northern Health 63 per cent. The ICU in the Provincial Health Services Authority, which includes neonatal intensive care, was 75 per cent full.
The province runs 510 ICU “base” beds in total, meaning hospitals have the equipment and staff to keep the beds open. There are an additional 218 “surge” beds for ICU patients outside of the main wards, for which hospitals would have to reallocate resources from other hospital departments, and those were 12 per cent occupied across B.C., the ministry said. Vancouver Coastal had an additional 52 beds, for instance, and 37 per cent of them were occupied Friday, B.C. Health said. Fraser Health had an additional 88 surge beds and seven per cent were occupied Friday.
This week, Kenney appealed to the other provinces to help Alberta deal with an overwhelming number of COVID cases and full ICUs by taking some of its patients or lending the province front-line health-care workers. Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador offered Alberta help, but B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said on Thursday that B.C. isn’t in a position to do the same because of its own health-care demands.
The number of COVID cases has been rising in B.C. On Friday, B.C. reported 768 new infections, bringing the number of active cases to 6,031. There were 11 new deaths, raising the death toll to 1,888 since the pandemic began. Some 298 people in B.C. were in hospital with COVID, including 135 in intensive care, said health officials.
“In general, the ICUs run at 60- to 80-per-cent capacity,” said Horacio Bach, a clinical professor in the infectious diseases department of the University of B.C.’s medical faculty. He said that, generally, COVID cases make up 30 to 40 per cent of ICU patients. B.C.’s 135 COVID patients in ICUs account for about a quarter of all admissions.
Bach said COVID patients tend to remain in ICU for longer than the typical ICU patient, sometimes for months, and that has an effect on new admissions.
— With files from The Canadian Press