Provincial health officer apologizes, backtracks on B.C. COVID-19 hospitalization stats
Three weeks after B.C.’s provincial health officer promised to give a complete accounting of people in hospital due to COVID-19, Dr. Bonnie Henry is apologizing and now offering a vague description of what officials will provide instead.
One month ago, CTV News first began trying to get the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized but “off precautions,” meaning they are no longer contagious and requiring special containment and transmission-mitigation measures.
The provincial government refused to provide that number and offered only a single day’s worth of statistics several days later, even though other provinces routinely provide that information, which gives people a better sense of how full hospitals are and the long-term impact of the disease on the health-care system.
“I do apologize that it's taken longer than I expected,” said Henry, blaming a fractured information technology system. “As it is turns out, not surprisingly perhaps, it's more complicated than I initially thought so I've been working with our team and we will be trying to provide a semblance of that."
Why “a semblance” may be provided rather than the true number is unclear: on Sept. 21, the province said there were 152 non-infectious patients in hospital due to COVID, on top of the 330 who were infectious. And Vancouver Coastal Health was internally circulating the number of “off-precautions” patients weekly to a wide group as recently as July.
“I'm trying to get a better sense of what that number is -- from the initial look at it it's somewhere around 200, we think, but that includes a variety of things,” said Henry, pointing out that some of those would be people who caught COVID in hospital but weren’t necessarily seriously ill due to the disease, some who were in long-term due to the damage the disease had caused, and about a third of which were people who’d been re-admitted with complications after being released.
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Henry also muddied the waters in terms of when someone is taken out of the COVID ward and no longer in daily pandemic hospital stats, pointing out that sometimes it was more than 10 days and pointing to some seriously-ill ICU patients who were still on precautions for 30 days or longer.
That seems to contradict a statement issued by the Ministry of Health in response to CTV News’ inquiries on the matter.
“For most cases, isolation is discontinued after 10 days, provided there is no fever and symptoms are improving. These same requirements are in effect in Ontario, Alberta and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S,” said the statement. “In B.C., for serious cases, the guideline is 20 days.”
Henry said she hopes to have a “better breakdown” of non-contagious COVID-19 patients in hospital in the next day or two. She also revealed that the overall number of hospitalized British Columbians will go up in the coming days because when the fourth wave struck Interior Health, they lost track of how many COVID-19 patients were in hospital as the facilities were overwhelmed.