Fort St. John Hospital designated primary COVID-19 site

The Fort St. John Hospital has now been designated a primary COVID-19 hospital in northern B.C. to deliver care to the most critically-ill patients.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday the city's hospital, as well as Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace, have been added to the province's "first line of defence" for those suffering from the respiratory disease.

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"(They are) the hospitals that we're counting on to be the first line of defence, if you will, for people who need hospital care because of COVID-19," Henry said in an interview with CBC's Daybreak North radio program on Tuesday morning.

"They're the ones that have the ability to have critical care, to support people in hospital situations, and the ones where we'll be ensuring we have the ventilator capacity that we need."

Seventeen primary hospitals were first identified last week, including University Hospital of Northern B.C. in Prince George. In case scenarios released last week, it was estimated UHNBC would have 10 intensive care beds and 16 ventilators available to help patients struck with the virus. 

It's not known if any modelling has been conducted for Fort St. John. The hospital has 44 acute care beds and three intensive care units, and last week councillors said there were seven ventilators at the hospital.

Currently there are 457 adult critical care ventilators available in B.C. hospitals. A total of 72 more ventilators that have been ordered or are being repaired are expected to be available next week, and the province says they will be sent to hospitals where they are needed.

CBC noted concerns whether the Terrace hospital could care for COVID-19 patients — its intensive care unit is almost full, with three of its four ventilators being used.

Northern Health is expected to hold a regional briefing with northern media outlets this week, but a date has yet to be confirmed.

The Fort St. John Hospital has been effectively locked down: doors to the birthing centre and Peace Villa are now locked 24-7, while the main entrance from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m., and through the weekends. The emergency room is unlocked from 8 a.m. to midnight.

There have been 15 confirmed COVID-19 cases in northern B.C.; one patient is currently in critical care, and three others are in acute care. At least five people have recovered so far.

There are now 1,013 cases and 24 deaths in B.C.

There are 128 patients in hospital, 61 of them in intensive care. Another 507 people in the province have fully recovered, including 70 who were in intensive or high acuity care.

Click here to listen to the full CBC interview.

This is a developing story.

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.

© Copyright Alaska Highway News

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