How would crowded Fraser Valley hospitals deal with patient surge? Officials won’t say

Amid coronavirus case and crowding issues, health officials won’t say where more patients would go

Provincial and local health officials have refused to answer questions about how the Fraser Valley’s crowded hospitals would cope with a surge in patients if a health emergency were to send more people to local emergency rooms.

Health officials say the risk of novel coronavirus spreading in British Columbia “remains low.” More than 100 people have died in China, and the first case of the SARS-like virus in B.C. was only confirmed Tuesday. That person, a man in his 40s, is in isolation at home.

Pandemic planning – particularly for an influenza virus – is extensive in British Columbia, and the Ministry of Health has a range of plans, all finalized in 2012.

Those documents, though, don’t explain how busy hospitals would manage increased patient loads, should they arise during a pandemic or similar health emergency.

The News asked Fraser Health how the region’s hospitals would cope with any significant increase in patients, given the severe crowding that already occurs during busy flu seasons.

RELATED: B.C. reports first coronavirus in Vancouver region

RELATED: Abbotsford-specific pandemic plan was suggested in 2016, but never created

Fraser Health communications staff directed questions about pandemic response to the BC Centre for Disease Control. A spokesperson for that organization said hospitals “take steps to prepare for the possibility of a pandemic in accordance with the Ministry of Health’s pandemic response plans.” Questions about how already-crowded hospitals would deal with a surge in patients went unanswered.

The 2009 H1N1 pandemic saw most people experience only mild or moderate symptoms, and most never attended a hospital. But the province’s pandemic influenza response plan says it’s “difficult to know how the next pandemic influenza virus will affect persons.”

Even non-pandemic influenza leads to seasonal increases in patient loads at hospitals.

The four months between December and March is the most-crowded season for B.C.’s hospitals, according to Ministry of Health figures obtained by Black Press.

In the Fraser Health Authority – and particularly hospitals in Chilliwack and Abbotsford – the winter season leaves facilities particularly congested. Last winter, the region’s hospitals operated at 109.4 per cent capacity, meaning one of every 10 in-patients in the province’s hospitals were in unfunded beds in an area not designated for ongoing care.

In Chilliwack and Abbotsford, where hospitals were filled to 128 and 124 per cent of their funded capacity, one of every four acute care patients were in makeshift bed locations. Health officials regularly cite the winter flu season when asked to explain why patients have ended up in unsatisfactory conditions in local hospitals.

Last Friday, the CBC reported that a 96-year-old woman had been stuck in Abbotsford Regional Hospital’s emergency room for days near the department’s doors.

The situation elsewhere in B.C. is less extreme, but occupancy rates in winter are higher than other parts of the year and regularly above 105 per cent.

Occupancy rate by season
Infogram

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

SLIDESHOW: Abbotsford’s fourth annual Open Mosque Day

Abbotsford Islamic Centre opens its doors to educate others

Two prolific offenders from Alberta lead RCMP on chase across Fraser Valley

Men first reported in Chilliwack ending with allegedly stolen vehicle in an Abbotsford pond

Arson charge laid in connection to Mission Canadian Tire fire

Charges of Arson with disregard for human life have been laid against 26-year-old Quince Chalifoux

PHOTOS: Wet’suwet’en supporters gather in Abbotsford

Solidarity march sees group of 50 people walk around Downtown Abbotsford

Another Abbotsford resident defrauded with elaborate phone scam

Thieves steal almost $16,000 from one resident, the tenth known victim in last 5 month

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

Tyler Toffoli scores twice, Canucks crush Bruins 9-3

Stecher, Miller each add three points for Vancouver

Zamboni driver, 42, earns NHL win over Maple Leafs

Emergency goalie called into action for Carolina Hurricanes

Governor general says multiple solutions needed for ‘complicated’ overdose issue

Julie Payette met at a fire hall with firefighters and police officers as well as politicians and health experts

Landlord ordered to pay $11K after harassing B.C. mom to move days after giving birth

Germaine Valdez was pressured to move just a few days after giving birth by C-section to her child

Heart attacks strike B.C. husband and wife just over one year apart

Courtenay couple share personal stories to bring awareness to heart month

‘Nothing surprises us anymore:’ U.S. border officials find brain in package

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found the brain packed in a glass mason jar in a Canada Post shipment

VIDEO: Giants winning streak now stands at 11

Team erased a 5-2 deficit by scoring every five minutes

Fiery collision involving truck closes Highway 1 at Three Valley Gap

Drivers should expect major delays and congestion; estimated time of re-opening is 2 p.m.

Most Read