Royal Inland Hospital is preparing to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of Thursday, there were 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the expanse of Interior Health, which ranges from the Fraser Canyon, east to the B.C./Alberta border, and from north of Williams Lake, south to the Canada/U.S. border.
Provincially, there are 271 cases, with eight deaths.
“We have not seen an influx of COVID-19 cases in IH, but all facilities in B.C. are making preparations should we start to see more cases at our hospitals,” Interior Health spokesperson Susan Duncan said in an email.
“This is part of pandemic planning occurring across the province.”
As directed by the province, Interior Health, which governs Royal Inland Hospital, has begun postponing non-urgent scheduled surgeries in preparation for COVID-19 cases.
Duncan said urgent and emergency procedures will not be impacted, noting an example of an urgent surgery would be a broken arm that has to be operated on, but can wait a few days, whereas an emergency surgery is one needed immediately to save a life, limb or organ.
Some surgeries, including those related to cancer and scheduled caesarean sections, will not be impacted, and patients will be contacted to confirm date and time, according to Interior Health.
It’s unclear how many surgeries will be postponed at RIH because the surgical list will be reviewed on a daily basis.
According to a health authority facility profile, the most common type of procedures done at RIH in 2018-2019 were knee and hip joint implants, totalling about 900 combined.
There were about 500 surgeries for cesarian-section births.
Procedures to remove gall bladders, appendixes, repair femurs, spines and implanting heart devices each totalled fewer than 200 surgeries in 2018-2019.
There are 254 hospital beds at RIH, which stand to be impacted by the pandemic.
Of those, 171 are medical/surgical beds, 16 are intensive-care unit beds, 28 are psychiatric beds, 18 are beds for rehabilitation, 12 are beds for obstetrical purposes and nine are beds for pediatrics.
The hospital’s average occupancy rate — based on the number of beds staffed each year — is listed as about 115 per cent in 2018-2019, according to the RIH facility profile.
Last year, the most common patient cases involved mental illness (1,735 cases) and circulatory-system issues (1,692) followed by musculoskeletal (1,475), pregnancy (1,430) and trauma/injury/poisoning (1,404).
All hospitals in B.C., including RIH, has its own pandemic plans — including cleaning measures and restricted visitor policies — and are taking steps to prepare for any cases in each region and to keep health-care providers and patients safe.
“We are ready for assessing, testing and managing suspect cases, as well as responding appropriately to confirmed cases,” Duncan said.
Interior Health also has an IH Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to co-ordinate preparation.
Those attending RIH during the pandemic are encouraged to take a cautious and common sense approach. They are asked not visit if they are feeling ill, apart from seeking medical attention.
“We also encourage keeping visitors to one person in the room at a time. Having a large number of visitors is not helpful for a sick patient,” Duncan said.
RIH continues to follow advice from the BC Centre for Disease Control about appropriate measures to take regarding the pandemic.
“This includes appropriate screening of patients, personal protective equipment for staff, patients, visitors and others,” Duncan said. “These are precautions we also put in place for people suspected of having influenza.”
Asked how the ER has been impacted by coronavirus, Duncan said there have been people seeking COVID-19 testing.
Health authorities have been asked to take a similar approach with ambulatory care services, as they have with surgeries, and each health authority is working to determine what those service impacts will look like.