British Columbia ready to cancel surgeries as respiratory cases flood overcrowded hospitals

Plans to make room for patients with respiratory illnesses by canceling surgeries are in place at B.C. hospitals, Health Minister Adrian Dix said, as parents worry about long waits at emergencies with sick children.

But the province has not yet reached the stage of demolition operations, Dix said Thursday, as he faced opposition calls for his resignation.

Parents and the opposition have denounced long waits at emergency rooms in British Columbia for children with severe respiratory symptoms.

« I’ve loved our health care system all my life, but now I see it slowly falling apart, and it scares and worries me, » said Rachel Thexton, who waited hours for medical attention after her three children fell ill. over the past two weeks.

“Never in my life have I seen this level of clear and unavailable resources for anyone, child or adult, to receive health care when they need it in an emergency,” she said. during an interview.

Burnaby’s mother said she faced hurdles getting care for each of her children, including being turned away by her overwhelmed family doctor and urgent care centers and enduring long times emergency room wait times in Vancouver and Burnaby.

Thexton said her children were eventually seen by doctors, who diagnosed one with pneumonia and the others with serious sinus and ear infections.

She says she is lucky to have a family doctor, but is often unable to get an appointment and emergency care is inaccessible.

« ER is never my first choice. It’s my last resort, » Thexton said.

« I don’t want to bring my child or myself out there to overwhelm the system unless absolutely necessary. »

Adrian Dix, British Columbia’s Minister of Health, says the province has not yet reached the point of canceling surgeries. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The province is grappling with a difficult illness season and steps to provide space for emergency respiratory cases will be taken, Dix said.

He said postponing elective surgeries is a way to create space in hospitals for patients, especially children, who are battling the flu and other respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19.

« We have other steps that we don’t want to take, but that would be, for example, delaying elective surgery and then catching up on those quickly afterwards, » Dix told reporters at the newspaper. ‘Legislative Assembly.

« This stage is available to us. We haven’t done it yet. We knew it was going to be a difficult season, and it is. »

BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver says it is triaging less severe patients from its emergency department to a nearby area due to an increase in the number of people with respiratory illnesses.

Christy Hay, the hospital’s executive director of clinical operations, says the department primarily sees viral illnesses, including COVID-19 and increasing cases of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

She says in an email that the increase in RSV and influenza was expected based on trends in other parts of Canada and around the world.

Dix said the current respiratory disease situation in British Columbia is concerning for parents and those awaiting surgery.

« You don’t want to delay operations unless you need to, » he said.

« It’s terrible if it’s your child or you who have a delayed operation for whatever reason. »

BC Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon said he hears daily « horror stories » of parents enduring long waits at emergency departments with their children.

« Why can a flu season cause such a massive crisis in our healthcare system? » he told a news conference.

« (The government) won’t get better results if it doesn’t have the guts to make big changes to the system. »

The Liberals used Question Period in the Legislative Assembly to repeat calls for Dix’s resignation.


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