VANCOUVER -- B.C.'s health care response to COVID-19 has been increased, with most hospitals now in Phase 2 of the provincial outbreak response plan.

That means hospitals across B.C. are postponing non-urgent scheduled surgeries, only taking on urgent and emergency procedures.

The province says those cancellations will begin happening this week, and will affect thousands of procedures, with the goal of opening up hundreds of hospital beds.

Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, which is under the jurisdiction of Vancouver Coastal Health, is the only hospital in Phase 3 of the response plan. It is only accepting emergency patients while work is underway inside to open a dedicated COVID-19 unit.

"These measures will assist hospitals to re-deploy and train essential service health-care providers on critical care related to COVID-19 to ensure sufficient medical supplies for patients and staff who need them most, and to further increase capacity to respond to the potential for a surge of COVID-19 patients requiring acute care," the province wrote in a statement.

Three administrative staff members at the hospital were announced as confirmed cases last week.

As of Monday morning, there were 103 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in B.C, including four deaths linked to a long-term care home in North Vancouver. Six people are in hospital for treatment.

The province is expecting that number will rise.

Creating space in hospitals

"They're clearly going to see more cases, and we have to prepare for that. So initially, once we've done these initial measures and cancelled thousands of surgeries, there (is) going to be a period of time (with) inevitably empty beds. We think that is a necessary step, " B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a briefing Monday.

"You have to prepare. We don't need it for today, and we might not even need it for Friday, but we need to have it in place so we're ready for that circumstance."

Preparations at pharmacies

The B.C. government is also introducing new measures to take strain off doctors, working with the College of Pharmacists to allow pharmacies to provide patients with prescription refills or emergency supplies of their medications, if needed.

The province is also telling people not to stockpile medication.

New hotline created

After criticism of wait times on the 811 hotline, a new number (1-888-COVID19) has also been set up to provide non-medical information about the virus in more than 100 languages.

The number is staffed seven days a week between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Residents can also text 604-630-0300 for information.

Health officials provided an update on the COVID-19 situation again at 3 p.m. Tuesday from Victoria, during which three more deaths were announced. More info here.