The B.C. government is making “fundamental changes” to the acute care system and cancelling all non-urgent, scheduled surgeries in a bid to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Health Minister Adrian Dix announced on Monday that the move will allow hospitals to have greater capacity to treat patients with COVID-19.
“Hospitals will only undertake urgent and emergency procedures and will postpone all non-urgent, scheduled surgeries,” Dix said.
“This will result in the cancellation, implemented over the next three to five days, of thousands of scheduled surgeries, of elected surgeries, in British Columbia and free up hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hospital beds.”
The province is working with staff scheduled to work on elective surgeries to move them to help with urgent care.
A dedicated phone line has been set up at 1-888-COVID19.
Four British Columbians have died from COVID-19, officials announced Monday, and six people in the province are now in hospital.
Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, where three administrative staff have tested positive for the virus, will now only accept emergency patients.
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“We are also moving to acquire more long-term care beds so we can move people from acute beds that don’t need to be there,” Dix said.
The province has also told the B.C. College of Pharmacists to allow pharmacists to refill prescriptions without a new note from a doctor.
“This will save time in doctor’s offices and allow us to both protect people in the system and ensure doctors can focus on more urgent things,” Dix said.
Access to care homes has also been restricted to staff and essential visitors only.
The four deaths associated with COVID-19 in the province have all been linked to the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver.
The province is also building a registry of health-care professionals potentially available to help and asking retired health workers to consider returning to work to address the crisis.
Health officials are increasing access to virtual health services, and creating incentives for doctors to provide care in that manner.