BC Children’s Hospital prepared to double-bunk patients during busy respiratory illness season

BC Children's Hospital prepared to double-bunk patients during busy respiratory illness season

BC Children’s Hospital has approved double-bunking patients in single-occupancy rooms as it tries to cope with an influx of patients with respiratory illnesses.

A memo obtained by The Canadian Press says that while it’s preferable that patients be in single rooms, two patients may share “if required to provide safe care.”

The decision comes as the province grapples with a spike in respiratory infections that has included an unusually high number of childhood deaths.

RELATED: Flu linked to deaths of six B.C. kids as province pushes vaccinations

A vaccination blitz at walk-in clinics saw more than 24,000 B.C. children get flu shots in the past week, the Health Ministry announced Monday.

The memo about double-bunking at BC Children’s Hospital, sent Friday, says similar measures have been implemented in other years and any decision must be made in consultation with the hospital’s infection prevention and control team.

The memo, addressed to the “C&W Leaders’ Forum,” was sent by managers including the chief operating officers of BC Children’s Hospital and BC Women’s Hospital.

In a statement, infectious disease pediatrician Dr. Laura Sauvé said the memo was a routine clinical reminder that’s part of the planning process for a difficult respiratory season.

As of Monday morning, there were no patients sharing rooms in the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit, she said.

No one from BC Children’s Hospital was available for an interview Monday.

The memo asks that families consider limiting the number of people coming into shared rooms.

“We also ask parents/guardians/visitors to please wear a mask when outside of the patient’s immediate bed space area, practice good and frequent hand washing, maintain distance when possible, and minimize the amount of personal belongings they bring with them or leave in the room,” it says.

“This all helps to contribute to a safe environment for patients, families, and staff.”

The province, which has been campaigning for more young children to be vaccinated against the flu, said in a news release that more than 77,532 influenza vaccinations were administered in the week to Sunday, including 24,493 shots to children and teenagers under 18.

The vaccination blitz increased the coverage rate for children aged six months to four years to 26.3 per cent, compared to 21.2 per cent a week earlier, while the rate for children five to 11 went from 19.5 per cent to 22.6 per cent.

There have been six flu-related deaths of children and youth in the province so far this season. An average of two to three children died in the province from the flu each year between 2015 and 2019, data from the BC Coroners Service shows.

Last week, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province was seeing a “dramatic increase” in illness and it arrived sooner than the seasonal flu usually would.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said at the same time that provincial emergency rooms had been seeing a peak of up to 6,900 patients daily.

According to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, for the week of Nov. 27, both the positivity rate and the growth of influenza among children have been higher this season compared to the five-year pre-pandemic historical average.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 12, 2022.

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