British Columbia’s premier says the province will do what it can to help Alberta stave off the collapse of its health-care system, but stopped short of offering hospital beds or staff.
“We stand ready to assist where we can and when we can but we have to also maintain our ICU capacity at a level that will allow us to continue to have surgeries,” John Horgan said Friday.
“We’ve had to suspend some surgeries as a result of COVID cases in our ICUs.”
On Thursday, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said B.C. would take Alberta patients in the future “if we can.”
Horgan said he had spoken to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney on Friday and that the provinces were in regular communication about how to coordinate healthcare.
He said both provinces remained focused on vaccination as the key to protecting residents.
Alberta declared a state of public health emergency on Wednesday, as Premier Jason Kenney warned intensive care units could be overwhelmed within about a week, due to a surge of unvaccinated patients.
Alberta has been forced to cancel hundreds of surgeries, and is racing to convert as many beds as possible to support intensive care, including operating rooms.
Alberta Health Services head Dr. Verna Yiu said this week the province’s ICUs were operating at 155 per cent over capacity, and that the province has reached out to other jurisdictions for help.
Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador have offered aid, but British Columbia and Quebec have both said they do not have the capacity to assist.
As of Thursday, B.C. had 134 COVID-19 patients in hospital, 117 of them unvaccinated.
British Columbia’s healthcare system has a total of 510 ICU beds and 218 surge beds, 444 of which were occupied as of Thursday.
Horgan said B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry would provide an update on hospital capacity next week.
“COVID-19 is creating difficulties in our acute care facilities because unvaccinated British Columbians are contracting COVID-19 that’s leading to increased hospitalizations, increasing strain and stress on front line workers that are working double shifts, sometimes triple shifts for months and months and months,” he said.
In the past two weeks, fully vaccinated people, who represent seven in 10 British Columbians, have accounted for just 13.6 per cent of COVID-19 cases in B.C. hospitals.
But the province continues to grapple with pockets of lower vaccination rates in some areas, particularly in its northern and eastern regions.
In the northeastern Peace River region, for example, only half of eligible people are fully vaccinated according to data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
And in the southeastern local health areas of Enderby and Creston fully vaccinated individuals make up just 59 and 60 per cent, respectively, of the eligible population.