B.C. hospitals are cancelling all elective surgeries this week to maximize their ability to accept urgent coronavirus patients. (Black Press files)

B.C. hospitals start cancelling elective surgeries in COVID-19 preparations

Long-term patients also being moved to create more space

Hospitals across B.C. are cancelling elective surgeries across the board this week, to free up beds and staff for an expected surge in coronavirus patients in need of acute care.

“B.C. health authorities are directed to immediately move all hospitals in the province to outbreak response basis,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said Monday. “This means hospitals will only undertake urgent and emergency procedures, and will postpone all non-urgent scheduled surgeries.

“This will be implemented in the next three to five days, and it will result in the cancellation of thousands of scheduled, elective surgeries in BC, and free up, as you would expect, hundreds and hundreds of hospital beds.”

Dix said the health ministry is also “moving to acquire more access to long-term care beds” in provincial facilities, so patients can be transferred from acute-care beds they no longer need.

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The actions in an already stretched B.C. health care system are necessary not only to create space to deal with the fast-spreading COVID-19, but also to transfer the surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists and cleaning staff that are expected to be needed.

The announcement came Monday as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that there have been 30 more coronavirus cases confirmed over the weekend, bringing B.C.’s total to 103. The number of new cases has been climbing quickly as testing has expanded and more people come forward with the typical symptoms, including cough, fever and shortness of breath.

The B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons has begun calling on recently retired doctors to activate their practice licences on a temporary basis to deal with the pandemic, as well as any doctors from outside B.C. who may be available, and medical staff of the Canadian Armed Forces.

To free up doctors from routine tasks, B.C. pharmacists have been empowered to renew lapsing drug prescriptions, and doctors’ notes for people to stay home from work have also been waived.


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tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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