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

Just Posted

Vehicles line up for the Greater Vancouver Drive-Thru Food Truck Festival at the Chilliwack Coliseum parking lot on March 27. The touring event comes to Abbotsford this weekend, May 15 and 16. (Photo: Jenna Hauck/Chilliwack Progress)
Drive-Thru Food Truck Festival takes place in Abbotsford

Event runs May 15 and 16 at Tradex, featuring 12 trucks each day

Mandarin Garden in Abbotsford had two event tents set up for outdoor dining. One of the tents, valued at more than $5,000, was stolen early Friday morning (May 14). (Submitted photo)
UPDATE: Dining tent stolen from Abbotsford restaurant is located

Owner says it would have cost more than $5,000 to replace the rented event tent

Chilliwack prolific offender Brian Stephan was wanted in late April 2021, but was arrested and charged after allegedly stealing a vehicle in Mission on May 5 and resisting arrest in Chilliwack. (RCMP file)
Wanted Chilliwack prolific offender arrested yet again

Brian Stephan allegedly stole a vehicle in Mission, committed a B&E, resisted arrest in Chilliwack on May 5

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

The new emergency department at Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre is slated to open June 8. (Screenshot from Province of BC video)
Expanded emergency department slated to open in June at Abbotsford Regional Hospital

Project cost $15 million with an additional $1.25 million donated for equipment

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Mike Farnworth, pre-pandemic. (File photo)
Surrey Police recruitment not distracting cops from shootings, Farnworth says

‘That’s simply not the case,’ Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth told the Now-Leader on Friday

Police are at Ecole Mount Prevost Elementary but the students have been evacuated. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Gardener finds buried explosives, sparking evacuation of Cowichan school

Students removed from school in an ‘abundance of caution’

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

Most Read