Hospitals in British Columbia are treating a record number of patients as the province’s respiratory illness season nears its peak, with the health minister saying the situation is challenging but being managed.
Health Minister Adrian Dix told a briefing Wednesday that 10,435 people were in hospital as of Tuesday night, the most the province has “ever seen”, and many have respiratory illnesses.
He said it was a “time of challenge” for the heath care system, but it could “absolutely” handle the surge.
Dix said that while influenza cases have been filling up wards, hospitals are also “setting records for surgeries.”
Hospitals across the province are implementing capacity and treatment initiatives to handle the numbers, Dix said.
“All health authorities are and continue to be prepared for increases in pediatric respiratory illness,” he said. “This includes B.C. Children’s Hospital. These actions are making sure we can continue to provide the care patients need during this busy time.”
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said cases of influenza A and respiratory syncytial virus are high across B.C. and are expected to peak in the next week or so.
COVID-19 cases are also showing signs of increasing in recent weeks with 219 people in hospital and 26 people in intensive care, she said.
But she said “almost all” people in B.C. have some degree of immunity, due to infection or vaccination.
Henry said recent preliminary data indicate 83 per cent of people in B.C. have had COVID-19, although many may not have noticed because they were vaccinated and had mild cases.
Henry said the respiratory illness season appears to be returning to patterns similar to before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have COVID-19 in the mix now, but what we’re seeing is much more usual patterns compared to what we saw last year where we saw influenza, COVID-19 and RSV peaking very early in November and going off at the end of the year,” she said.
Last year, people were using the term “tripledemic” to describe the early surges of COVID-19, influenza and RSV, said Henry.
“We’re not out of the woods yet and we will continue to see high rates of influenza and RSV for the next few weeks,” she said. “I expect if it follows the pattern that we’ve seen before that we may have a peak in the next week or so,” she said.
Henry said influenza has contributed to the deaths of three children under 10 in B.C. in recent weeks and has seen outbreaks in at least two dozen long-term care facilities.
One of the children who died was under five years old, said Henry, and secondary bacterial infections contributed to all three children’s deaths.
Six B.C. children and youth died during last year’s respiratory illness season.
- ‘Simple answer is get more doctors’: Victoria family calls for improved healthcare access after holiday illness
- COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 10, 2024.