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B.C. hospital occupancy remains far below pre-pandemic times

77.1% of B.C. hospitals beds are filled. Pre-pandemic, occupancy exceeded 100%.
Bonnie Henry - sept 28 2021
Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry speaks to media on September 28

COVID-19's fourth wave continues to crest in B.C., but B.C. hospitals are far from being as full as they were pre-pandemic because health officials have postponed surgeries.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said September 28 that when B.C.'s existing hospital beds are added to those that were added during the pandemic for emergencies, there are 11,571 total beds. Of those, 77.1%. or 8,927, are occupied, he said.

Dix broke down the beds by saying that the province has 9,218 "base beds," or beds that existed pre-pandemic. Another 2,353 are what he calls "surge beds," because they are newly added for emergency purposes, and can strain the system because they require extra staff time.

About 93.4% of B.C.'s base beds are occupied, whereas 13.3% of the province's surge beds are occupied. Pre-pandemic, B.C. hospitals were approximately 103% occupied.

Another way to categorize B.C.'s hospital beds is to segment out those that are in intensive care units (ICUs). Of B.C.'s ICU beds, 510 are considered "base beds," with 218 being "surge beds." Patients are occupying 425 base ICU beds, and 28 surge ICU beds, for an overall ICU occupancy of 62.2%.

"We have reduced non-urgent scheduled surgeries in several health authorities," Dix said to explain why hospitals are emptier than they were pre-pandemic. 

"Pressure on our hospitals persist, and surgeries do continue to be postponed. Our surgical renewal commitment to patients has not changed. You're not forgotten. You will not be forgotten. You will be called again. We will reschedule your surgery, and we will, we will make sure that that surgery happens."

Hospitalizations in B.C. had been rising but have dipped in recent days. 

There are now 316 COVID-19 patients in B.C. hospitals, with those being patients who entered hospital with COVID-19 and have not yet gone 10 days after having first felt symptoms. In some exceptional cases, patients are in that count up to 20 days after having felt the first COVID-19 symptoms.

A separate total of patients linked to the COVID-19 pandemic includes those who entered hospital with COVID-19, but have gone more than 10 days after feeling the first symptoms, and the government therefore does not consider them to be infectious. This total also includes people who entered hospital for a different reason than COVID-19, and then caught the disease. Last week, the government pinned the total number in this group of patients at 152.

Those with the most serious COVID-19 infections often enter ICUs. There are now 141 COVID-19 patients in ICU, which is the same total as yesterday. 

Unvaccinated people are driving infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

Dix yesterday tweeted a chart that showed that of the 141 then in ICUs, 121, or 85.8%, are unvaccinated. Another eight, or 5.7%, were partially vaccinated, and 12, or 8.5%, were fully vaccinated.

Of the 35 people in those ICUs who were younger than 50 years old, only one was fully vaccinated, according to Dix's statistics.

Another two British Columbians died overnight from COVID-19, raising the province's death toll from the pandemic to 1,942.

Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry said on September 28 that COVID-19 booster, or third, doses of vaccine will start being given next week to seniors in long-term care and assisted living

"Right now, there is not a need for most people in the community, for most of us, to receive a booster dose," she added.

The rising number of cases in the Fraser Valley has also prompted new restrictions for the eastern part of the Fraser Health region.

There has also been a spike in new COVID-19 cases in unvaccinated children

Health officials have detected another 652 infections in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of those infected since the first case was detected in January, 2020, to 185,432.

More than 95.5%, or 177,113 of the people infected in B.C., are deemed by the province to have recovered because they have gone 10 days after first feeling symptoms, and are therefore not thought to be infectious.

There are 5,992 people battling what the province considers to be active infections. 

New vaccinations have slowed, as the vast majority of British Columbians are already fully vaccinated. 

Health officials provided 10,135 doses of vaccine to British Columbians in the past day, with 3,201 of those being to unvaccinated individuals, and 6,934 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 4,068,060 B.C. residents who have received one dose of vaccine since mid-December, 2020, more than 91.8%, or 3,736,540, are fully vaccinated, with two doses.

The B.C. government estimated in July that the province's total population is 5,147,712, so Glacier Media's calculation is that more than 79% of B.C.'s total population has had at least one dose of vaccine, and more than 72.5% of the province's total population has had two doses.

The province estimates that 87.8% of eligible British Columbians, older than 12 years, have had at least one dose of vaccine, with 80.6% of that population considered fully vaccinated with two doses.

The hardest hit region for new and active infections, on a per capita basis, remains Northern Health. 

Glacier Media's math shows the number of new infections per health region, for each 10,000 residents (with total new cases in brackets) is:
• 1.2 in Fraser Health (219);
• 0.6 in Vancouver Coastal Health (70);
• 2.2 in Interior Health (162);
• 3.9 in Northern Health (117); and
• 1 in Island Health (82).

There were two new infections in people who normally do not reside in B.C.

The result by health region for the 5,992 people fighting active infections for each 10,000 residents (with total new cases in brackets) is:
• 12.5 in Fraser Health (2,249);
• 7.2 in Vancouver Coastal Health (903);
• 15.8 in Interior Health (1,176);
• 31 in Northern Health (928); and
• 8 in Island Health (677).

The active case counts include 58 people who normally live outside B.C. •