Mills Memorial Hospital has been thinning out its occupancy rate in preparation for an increased demand for services because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The move follows last week’s decision by the provincial health ministry to cancel all elective and non-urgent surgeries across the province.
As of March 20, provincial health minister Adrian Dix reported that approximately 2,400 acute care beds and approximately 200 critical care beds had been freed up, a number that is expected to fluctuate provincially, regionally and locally depending upon demand and circumstances.
Mills Memorial has a bed count of 50, up from 44 beds approximately 18 months ago by adding one bed so there are four in its intensive care ward and adding five beds on its medical/surgical ward for a total of 30 beds.
It also added the equivalent of 4.5 full-time registered nurses to handle the increased bed count.
The additional intensive care ward bed was added in the 2018-2019 fiscal year and the five additional medical/surgical beds were added in the current fiscal year which ends the end of March.
The 10-bed regional psychiatric unit and six beds in maternity/gynecology make for 50 beds at Mills.
Within the Northern Health Authority area, there are 571 acute care beds.
But health authorities in the past have stressed that capacity will be adjusted to meet demand, a standard feature of planning that goes into the event of unforeseen circumstances.
At Mills, for instance, the TV lounge area opposite the nursing station on the second floor medical/surgical ward has been pressed into service on occasion and beds in the day surgery recovery room are also available as needed.
As of last week, the number of ventilators within the Northern Health Authority area stood at 116 but how they are allocated within specific health care facilities isn’t known.
The subject of ventilators used to assist critically-ill patients with breathing has been a consistent subject of questions put to health care officials.
Across B.C., as of late last week, provincial health minister Adrian Dix said there were 956 of various types, including ones used when transporting people.
More ventilators are on order, Dix continued, and numbers will be announced as they arrive.