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B.C. doctor shares dire situation at Royal Columbian Hospital ICU amid COVID spike

Last Updated Apr 5, 2021 at 8:17 pm PDT


The head of medicine at Royal Columbian Hospital says his ICU is seeing increased pressure due to COVID-19

Increase in COVID-19 cases at B.C. hospitals have impact on other units, warns New Westminster doctor

Physicians sharing stories from the ICU as COVID-19 case numbers rise across B.C., Canada

NEW WESTMINSTER (NEWS 1130) – As COVID-19 case numbers keep rising, the pressure is mounting on B.C.’s Intensive Care Units.

Dr. Gerald Da Roza, the head of medicine at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, says we’ve reached a critical moment.

“We’re definitely seeing increased pressure at the Royal Columbian ICU,” he told NEWS 1130 on Monday. “For the past two weeks we’ve been at capacity and even exceeded our capacity at times.”

That means some patients need to be kept in the emergency department or elsewhere for treatment, putting more stress on other areas of the hospital.

“Occasionally we’ve had to use the post-anesthetic recovery room areas, which then could impact surgical patients waiting to come out from surgeries,” Da Roza explained. “I think what we have to remember at some of these big hospitals — and all the hospitals in the province — is that we’re still trying to do the regular operations, surgeries, trauma, medical illnesses, heart attacks, strokes. All those sort of urgent care needs are still occurring and we need to do that as well.”

The other impact, he notes, is to specialized units. Sometimes, these units are only available in select hospitals across the province.

One specialized treatment that could be impacted is ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, “which is for the very sickest of the sick,” says Da Roza, adding that can only be done at Royal Columbian, St. Paul’s, and Vancouver General on the Lower Mainland.

“So we are seeing our ICU, in particular, as is those others, being quite inundated with capacity requests and transfers,” he said.

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B.C. surpassed its previous records for daily COVID-19 case counts, topping 1,000 new cases between Thursday and Friday, and Friday and Saturday.

The daily numbers for Saturday to Sunday, and Sunday to Monday have yet to be released, but many worry it could continue to climb.

Da Roza’s concern for the coming weeks is, if the numbers continue to trend up, our hospitals will reach a critical point of “severe capacity issues.”

“If that happens, that could impact care — not just for COVID patients but for patients that do not have COVID that need our services,” he admitted.

He hopes the pressure on ICUs will alleviate if people comply with public health orders, more British Columbians are vaccinated, and our curve is bent back down.

However, until that time, he’s pleading for everyone to do their part.

“Hang in there for the next few months,” Da Roza said in his message to the public. “Work with us and your communities in complying with all the restrictions that are set out there. I know it’s not very easy, but I do think that it is a critical time period right now.”

Being on the frontline and seeing the impacts COVID-19 is having on families, health-care workers, and the system, Da Roza is hoping to convey the importance of getting B.C.’s numbers back down to manageable levels.

Da Roza joins other physicians who have made public pleas for people to follow health orders.

Dr. Kevin McLeod, an internal medicine specialist, took to Twitter over the weekend to share what he’s been seeing.

“BC we have a problem,” he wrote on Saturday, noting hospitals were “much busier” in the days before.

He said there was a “significant increase in COVID cases especially in younger people who are coming in around day 10 from initial disease onset.”

McLeod wrote that these patients were “presenting really sick” and in need of 100 per cent oxygen.

Dr. Michael Warner, an intensivist in Ontario, has also been drawing attention to the situation across Canada, sharing stories of some of the patients who make their way into the hospital where he works.

In one tweet, he shares brief details about one person, saying “#COVID has taken another patient.”

“If nothing changes, nothing changes,” his tweet reads.