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BC hospitals struggling to deal with deadly flu strain, overdose crisis

Last Updated Jan 12, 2017 at 5:59 pm PDT

(iStock Photo)

The province's top doctor says staff are seeing an uptick in patients

On Vancouver Island the flu has been deemed the cause of death for five epeople

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – As this year’s flu strain continues to hit people all over the province, hospitals are starting to feel the effects.

BC’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall says facilities on Vancouver Island say they’re struggling to manage.

Island Health Executive director Norm Peters says emergency departments are working over capacity because of an influx of flu patients. Last week, more than a dozen surgeries needed to be cancelled because there weren’t enough hospital beds for patients.

There have been 181 people diagnosed with flu so far this season on Vancouver Island and of those 66 remain in hospital, while five people have died.

Dr. Perry Kendall says this season both the flu and the overdose crisis have created a bit of a double whammy for hospitals. And periodically he is hearing about facilities having trouble managing the influx of patients dealing with both issues. “St. Paul’s Hospital for example, is a hospital that sees an awful lot of overdoses and has a vulnerable population, so they would expect probably to see a large number of people coming in for influenza-like illnesses as well.”

The BC Coroners Service says in Metro Vancouver, there have been no cases where the flu was reported as the cause of death over the last month. However, it adds if someone dies in a hospital it wouldn’t necessarily be notified.

“Some hospitals in the Fraser Health Authority are seeing both overdoses in fairly high numbers and influenza-like illness,” adds Kendall.

Between January and November of last year, more than 750 people died of drug overdoses — a new record in BC.