Health officials in B.C. are speaking Monday as the province grapples with rising rates of respiratory illnesses and long emergency room waits for parents with sick children.
Health Minister Adrian Dix, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Immunize B.C. executive lead Penny Ballem are set to speak at 11:30 a.m. PT.
CBC News will livestream the news conference.
B.C. Children’s Hospital continues to see long waits to be seen by a doctor. The estimated wait time over the weekend was as long as 10 hours.
The hospital briefly called a code orange at 6:35 a.m. PT on Saturday. The code can be used for mass casualty events, but a statement said it was used Saturday “to escalate notification for staffing resources.”
The code was cancelled that morning at 7:03 a.m.
Sarah Bell, the hospital’s chief operating officer, said the emergency department is seeing high acuity on top of the sheer volume — which means a high number of patients require prolonged attention and care from nursing staff.
Bell said parents should only bring children with a respiratory illness to the emergency room if they’re having trouble breathing, adding that children who are younger than three months and have a fever and are dehydrated with diarrhea or vomiting should also go to the ER.
“You probably don’t need emergency care if your child has a cough, cold, sore throat, the flu, pink eye or an earache,” she said.
In November, Henry said data showed the illnesses being seen most commonly among children in B.C. were influenza A and, to a lesser degree, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections.
WATCH | Dr. Bonnie Henry explains why she wasn’t ready in November to impose a mask mandate:
Dix said at the time the province had made plans to cancel non-urgent surgeries to create room at hospitals for patients, especially children, but had not yet reached that point.
“We do have other steps we don’t want to take, but they would be, for example, delay of non-urgent surgery and then catching up on those quickly thereafter,” Dix told reporters at the legislature.
“That step is available to us. We haven’t done it yet. We knew this was going to be a hard season, and it is.”