The Vancouver Convention Centre is being converted to act as a makeshift hospital as the province gears up to deal with a possible surge in cases of COVID-19.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said similar facilities were being established in all health authorities around the province.
A brand-new building at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, which was intended to go into service as a mental-health facility this spring,” is also being converted for use during the pandemic.
There will be 271 beds at the convention centre facility, and 80 at Royal Columbian Hospital.
The temporary hospitals are intended to care for non-COVID-19 patients, freeing up space in B.C.’s acute care facilities to deal with an anticipated surge in hospitalizations.
As of Monday, B.C. had 106 COVID-19 patients in hospital, 60 of them in intensive care.
The province has more than 4,200 empty hospital beds, after cancelling the majority of scheduled surgeries on the books and moving other patients to long-term care facilities.
“With 4,000-plus empty beds, we’re not going to be moving anyone [to the temporary hospitals] soon,” said Dix.
“But this shows our determination to be prepared for people, and also to ensure that people who may have serious illness, or [be] recovering from treatment other than COVID-19 can continue to be separated from people who are being treated for COVID-19 in hospital.”
In places such as Northern Italy and New York, exponential growth in COVID-19 cases has swamped hospitals, overwhelming health care workers and critical equipment such as ventilators.
Last week, B.C. health officials released modelling of potential coronavirus growth rates based on current trends, and compared it to outbreaks in Wuhan, China, Italy and South Korea.
South Korea is viewed as a success story in the pandemic, having successfully “flattened the curve” of infection through stringent social distancing measures and mass testing.
The data presented Friday suggested B.C. is closer to a South Korea-type spread of the virus so far, and if the province was to continue to deal with that level of infection, its hospitals would have enough beds and ventilators.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday that the province has yet to see a sudden surge in hospital demand, and is not expecting to see it in the “near term.”
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