Thousands of hospital beds in B.C. cleared to make room for COVID-19

Thousands of hospital beds in B.C. cleared to make room for COVID-19

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix says the province's recent cancellation of non-essential surgeries has made thousands of hospital beds available to treat serious cases of COVID-19.

At a media conference Friday, Dix said the province cancelled all non-urgent elective surgeries earlier this week when officials bumped up B.C.'s pandemic preparedness plan to Level 2.

Dix acknowledged that cancelling non-urgent elective surgeries creates consequences for many people, but the province is now prepared if the number of COVID-19 case takes a dramatic leap. 

"This preparedness is not what happened in other jurisdictions and it shows how much we're learning from other jurisdictions," Dix said.

As a result, there are now 2,398 acute care beds available if needed for serious COVID-19 cases. That means acute care beds are filled to 78.5 per cent capacity compared to 103.5 per cent two weeks ago. 

Dix said critical care beds in the province are at 61.8 per cent capacity.

22 people in hospital

Health experts say most people who contract the coronavirus experience mild, if any, symptoms.

But about 20 per cent of those who are infected are hospitalized for shortness of breath or pneumonia.

As of Friday, B.C. has a total 348 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Twenty-two people are now in hospital, with 10 in intensive care. Six people have fully recovered.

Flattening the curve

Like many places around the world, B.C. is trying to flatten the curve of the pandemic's rising case numbers to prevent a surge that overloads the public health system. 

Health officials say the best way to do this is to abide by social distancing rules and keep one-to-two metres away from others, frequently wash hands and not congregate in groups. 

Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said it may take weeks or months to notice the effect of those measures which have been put in place in stages over the last two weeks.

In China and South Korea, which saw major outbreaks before Canada, it took about two and a half months to get the situation under control, Tam said.