Few vacant ICU beds in Fraser Health, but Henry says hospitals can find space if COVID-19 spreads

Few vacant ICU beds in Fraser Health, but Henry says hospitals can find space if COVID-19 spreads

Fraser Health Authority, which serves 1.9 million people, has 80 ICU beds in total

As concerns grow about the spread of novel coronavirus, British Columbia’s largest health authority, which serves 1.9 million people, currently has just 80 intensive care unit (ICU) beds, with only eight unoccupied as of Monday, The News has learned.

In an email, a Fraser Health spokesperson said the health authority’s 80 beds were 90 per cent full. That would leave just eight empty ICU beds. As of Tuesday, one COVID-19 patient was in intensive care in the region. Fourteen people in the region had been confirmed to have had the new coronavirus.

The province’s top doctor, though, says the health care system has the ability to increase such beds – as it did in 2009 during the H1N1 pandemic.

The Fraser Health region stretches from White Rock to Hope, and includes the municipalities Delta, Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack.

In Italy, one of the pandemic’s hot spots, officials have labeled a lack of hospital beds as a key concern there. Patients with COVID-19 are hospitalized much more frequently than those who get the flu, with many requiring ventilators. Italy has about 3.2 hospital beds per 1,000 people, according to the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development. That’s double the Fraser Health rate. Canada had 2.5 beds per 1,000 people, as of 2018.

Health Minister Adrian Dix noted that hospitals are generally more crowded during the winter flu season, and that officials hope to lessen the COVID-19 demands on the system while flu patients occupy many beds.

“This is a challenging time of year and this is a challenge for everybody and it’s why we’re acting so aggressively and have been, not just this week but the last seven weeks, to contain the virus in British Columbia – To push it back and push it as close to the end of flu season as we can and to contain it.”

Officials can also postpone scheduled surgeries and take other actions to free up space.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial medical officer, noted that B.C.’s hospitals and health care system have previously shown an ability to increase the number of intensive care spaces to react to a pandemic. In 2009, she noted, the spread of H1N1 pandemic left many young people needing ventilators.

“This is something we can do if we need to,” she said. In 2009, “we had a lot of young people who needed ventilatory care and it would have overwhelmed our ICU capacity, but hospitals developed plans around the province – because it wasn’t affecting every ICU at the same time. I often tell the story that if the Olympics had been planned for October and November of 2009, we would have had to postpone or cancel them because our ICUs were complete. They were full of young people on long-term ventilatory support.”

Henry said there is also the ability to move patients currently in hospital to other locations, if need be.

“We can move people temporarily to other places. So it’s not like a full-time placement in a care home for somebody. There’s provisions we can do in our system to push people out of hospital who don’t need to be in the acute care bed for that period of time.”

Scheduled surgeries can also be postponed to allow for the use of those areas of the hospital.

RELATED: World Health Organization declares COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic

RELATED: COVID-19 concerns ‘spike’ in B.C. leading to ‘significant’ behaviour changes: poll

A Fraser Health spokesperson noted that most people who contract a respiratory illness like the new coronavirus can recover at home and that those who do require hospitalization can be treated both in the ICU and high acuity and medicine wards.

But Fraser Health has fewer beds per person than the B.C. average, and B.C. has fewer acute care beds per capita than the Canadian average. As of last winter, Fraser Health had 1.4 beds per 1,000 people.

Intensive care beds

  • Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre: 8
  • Burnaby Hospital: 9
  • Chilliwack General Hospital: 6
  • Langley Memorial Hospital: 6
  • Peace Arch Hospital: 7
  • Royal Columbian Hospital: 16
  • Ridge Meadows Hospital: 7
  • Surrey Memorial Hospital: 21

Watch for more

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
tolsen@abbynews.com


@ty_olsen
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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

Just Posted

Signs up at Hope Secondary School inform visitors that the school is a closed campus during the coronavirus pandemic. (Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard)
Fourth COVID-19 exposure reported at Hope Secondary School

Nov. 27 exposure two days after another exposure at the school, with five exposures total across SD78

Chief Robert Gladstone of Shxwha:y Village at a federal flood funding announcement April 24, 2019. (Jenna Hauck/Chilliwack Progress file)
Consortium of Indigenous chiefs seeking a way to participate in cannabis economy

All Nations Chiefs from the Shxwha:y, Cheam, Soowahlie and Sq’ewlets holding online forum Dec. 2

Harrison mayor Leo Facio, Kent mayor Sylvia Pranger and organizer Rose Tustian (far right) at the Salvation Army kettle in Agassiz in this 2017 photo. (Contributed Photo/Rose Tustian)
Local Salvation Army kettle campaign kicks off Saturday

Municipal, provincial dignitaries to volunteer

Students at the Chilliwack campus of the University of the Fraser Valley. (Darren MacDonald/ UFV)
UFV asking students to voluntarily report COVID cases and exposures to the school

With COVID cases rising and Fraser Health struggling to keep up, students are asked to help

Bev Kennedy of the Agassiz-Harrison Historical Society board of directors demonstrates tongue-in-cheek how to hold a tea cup for guests at the fifth annual Dickens Tea fundraiser at Cheam Village Saturday afternoon.
Un-Dickens Tea on tap for Agassiz Harrison Museum

Deadline for order placement is Nov. 28.

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks along the seawall in North Vancouver Wednesday, November 25, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
911 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths as B.C. sees deadliest week since pandemic began

Hospitalizations reach more than 300 across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Despite rumours, Surrey RCMP say they are not issuing tickets to people if they are driving in a vehicle with others from a different household. (File photo)
COVID-19 tickets: No, RCMP aren’t checking vehicle occupancies, restaurant tables

Enforcement about education, not punishment says Surrey RCMP Cpl. Joanie Sidhu

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Gold medallists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, of Canada, pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Charlie Riedel
Olympic champions Virtue, Moir and Tewksbury among 114 Order of Canada inductees

Moir and Virtue catapulted to national stardom with their gold-medal performances at the Winter Olympics in 2018

Most Read