1,619 people likely caught COVID-19 in B.C. hospitals and 274 of them have died

Vancouver –

For the first time, B.C.’s Ministry of Health has provided information about people who likely caught COVID-19 after going to acute care settings for medical treatment or work, with 1,619 getting the virus and 274 of them dying.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has compiled a report, which is intentionally vague in parts, outlining the time frame and location of the outbreaks. To protect privacy, when the number of affected people is five or fewer, they simply mark an “x,” so only 1,533 cases and 189 deaths can be pinpointed in the document; the more accurate grand total was provided by a Ministry of Health spokesperson.

The information was aggregated and released weeks after CTV News asked for detailed accounting on how many people were infected while getting medical treatment. The medical term for hospital-acquired infections is “nosocomial transmission,” and does not appear in any documents available from health authorities or the ministry.

All the deaths from COVID-19 acquired in hospital were patients, and no staff members died as a result. Roughly two-thirds of the infections were in patients, the rest in “staff/other.”

SOME HOSPITALS SAW REPEAT OUTBREAKS, OTHERS JUST ONE

Nine acute care outbreaks are still underway, including the fifth and sixth for Abbotsford Regional Hospital, where at least 53 people are believed to have contracted the virus. At least four of them have died.

At Burnaby Hospital, at least 188 people who went to the hospital for medical care or worked there got COVID-19 and four died during 14 separate outbreaks, one of which is still underway. At least 147 got sick and 18 died at Surrey Memorial across 15 outbreaks. Lions Gate Hospital has seen a total of 126 infected, 28 of whom have died, while the University Hospital of Northern B.C. has had at least 81 cases and 11 deaths.

“Outbreaks are declared at the discretion of the regional Medical Health Officer,” reads the BCCDC report.

For weeks, the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health authorities have rebuffed efforts to provide the outbreak data or speak with the deputy medical health officers responsible for supervising outbreaks in acute care settings. CTV News made several attempts to discuss the issue with health officials after a Freedom of Information request for documents outlining how hospital outbreaks unfolded and what was done to prevent more were met with mostly blank pages from the former, and zero from the latter.

B.C. HEALTH OFFICIALS CONTINUE TO RESTRICT PANDEMIC INFORMATION

B.C. began releasing information about long-term care and assisted living outbreaks after intense public pressure for transparency on those cases last year, but has resisted proactive disclosure of pandemic-related information on other fronts.

In September, the Ministry of Health came under intense criticism after refusing to reveal the total number of patients in B.C. hospitals due to COVID-19; the province regularly publishes statistics for those considered to still be contagious and therefore a risk to others.

Despite promising to provide weekly totals of both infectious and non-infectious COVID-19 patients, which would better reflect the impact the pandemic is having on the health-care system, health officials have not done so. B.C.’s provincial health officer later said “a semblance” of those statistics would be available.

In the spring, the BCCDC followed through on a promise to provide regular neighbourhood-level data on coronavirus infections and vaccination rates after someone leaked internal documents with the information to Postmedia.

CTV News asked to speak with the provincial health officer or head of the BCCDC to discuss nosocomial transmission, but was told neither was available.

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