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B.C. hospital occupancy stays relatively flat in past month

Hospitals were far more occupied pre-pandemic
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix spoke to media October 5 | B.C. government

The fourth wave of the B.C.'s COVID-19 pandemic has not significantly altered the province's hospital occupancy levels in the past month, according to new data. 

Health Minister Adrian Dix said October 5 that B.C.'s hospital beds are 78.2% occupied. That compares with those beds being 77.1% filled a week ago, and 78.5% filled about one month ago, on September 3. 

Dix has repeatedly said that there were times before the pandemic when B.C. hospitals were 103% occupied. Postponed surgeries are the reason that B.C. hospitals are less occupied now than pre-pandemic. 

He explained that when B.C.'s existing hospital beds, or "base beds" are added to those that were added during the pandemic for emergencies, or "surge beds," there are 11,571 total beds. 

Dix said the province has 9,218 base beds and 2,535 surge beds. Surge beds can add considerable strain to the system because they also require extra human resources. 

About 94.3% of B.C.'s base beds are occupied, whereas 15.3% of the province's surge beds are occupied. 

Another way to categorize B.C.'s hospital beds is to segment out those that are in intensive care units (ICUs), and have access to life-saving equipment that is not available in a standard acute care unit bed.

Of B.C.'s 728 ICU beds, 510 are considered "base beds," with 218 being "surge beds." Patients now occupy a total of 467 ICU beds, for an overall ICU occupancy of 64.15%, Dix said.

Hospital occupancy matters because if large new outbreaks of COVID-19 materialize, hospital occupancy could soar past the ability of staff to help patients.

New mutant strains of COVID-19 may also arise – ones that are more infectious than the Delta variant, and are resistant to vaccines. That could also push hospital occupancy past the current maximum number of beds, and the capacity of staff.

For now, COVID-19 patients comprise a small proportion of overall hospital patients in B.C. 

There are 345 COVID-19 patients in B.C. hospitals, which is 19 more than yesterday. Of those, 144 are in ICUs, which is two more than yesterday.  

Some good news is that no one new is known to have died from COVID-19 in the past day, leaving the province's pandemic death toll at 1,983.

Fuelling what could turn out to be serious infections is the large number of new people being diagnosed with COVID-19 on a daily basis. Health officials detected another 593 COVID-19 infections among British Columbians in the past day. There are 5,937 active infections in the province.

In total, 190,372 British Columbians have contracted the disease since the first case was detected in the province in January, 2020.

Of those, more than 95.6%, or 182,045 people, are deemed by the province to have recovered because they have gone more than 10 days after first feeling symptoms, and are therefore considered to be not infectious. 

Unvaccinated people continue to be largely responsible for much of the disease's spread, and Dix, at his press conference, once again referred to the fourth wave of COVID-19 as the "pandemic of the unvaccinated."

This is in part because the most recent government statistics show that between September 27 and October 3, people not fully vaccinated accounted for 70.7% of new cases. Between September 20 and October 3, people not fully vaccinated accounted for 78.1% of hospitalizations.

These statistics underscore that the vast majority of those getting infected and sick are not fully vaccinated. This is happening while the vast majority of the population in B.C. is fully vaccinated.

New vaccinations continue to crawl along at a sluggish pace, compared to a few months ago, largely because the vast majority of British Columbians have already received their needed two doses.

Health officials provided 10,758 doses of vaccine to British Columbians in the past day, with 3,587 of those being to unvaccinated individuals, and 7,171 going to those needing second doses. No data was available for any third doses, which have started to be administered to those who are considered extremely vulnerable, and immunocompromised. 

Of the 4,092,813 B.C. residents who have received one dose of vaccine since mid-December, 2020, more than 92.5%, or 3,789,179, are fully vaccinated, with two doses.

Across B.C., 88.3% of eligible adults older than 12 have had at least one dose of vaccine, with 81.7% of those eligible people having had two doses, according to the B.C. government.

The B.C. government estimated in July that the province's total population is 5,147,712, so Glacier Media's calculation is that 79.5% of B.C.'s total population has had at least one dose of vaccine, and 73.6% of the province's total population has had two doses.

Northern Health remains the province's hot spot for new and active infections. 

Glacier Media's math broke down the 1,986 new infections by health region, for each 10,000 residents (with total new cases in brackets):
• 1.1 in Fraser Health (203);
• 0.5 in Vancouver Coastal Health (68);
• 1.7 in Interior Health (128);
• 2.9 in Northern Health (87); and
• 1.3 in Island Health (107).

There were no known new infections in people who normally do not reside in B.C.

The result by health region, for the 5,937 people fighting active infections, for each 10,000 residents (with total new cases in brackets) is:
• 12.8 in Fraser Health (2,300);
•  7 in Vancouver Coastal Health (869);
•  15.5 in Interior Health (1,151);
•  27.9 in Northern Health (836); and
•  8.5 in Island Health (723).

There are 58 active infections in the province in people who normally reside outside B.C. 

One new COVID-19 outbreak at a healthcare facility is at the University Hospital of Northern B.C. in Prince George. An outbreak at Menno Terrace East in Abbotsford has been declared over.

In total, the province has 19 active outbreaks at seniors' homes. •