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BC Children’s Hospital briefly activates ‘code orange’

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BC Children’s Hospital briefly activated a hospital emergency code normally reserved for natural disasters and mass casualty events on Saturday morning.

A spokesperson for the Provincial Directorate of Health Services confirmed to CTV News that at 6:35 a.m. the hospital called an “orange code” that was canceled just under 30 minutes later, at 7:03 a.m.

The spokesperson did not provide any further details on the situation, nor any explanation as to why the code was triggered, but children’s hospitals in BC and across Canada have been struggling with a high volume of patients during the current respiratory disease season.

A document declaring code orange that was shared with CTV News gives the reason for the declaration as an “increase in the census/acuity of patients in (the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) without the appropriate resources to manage.”

Last month, BC Children’s Hospital opened an additional unit for its emergency room to help handle the large number of patients.

A memo announcing the emergency room overflow described that the department “sees mostly viral illnesses, including Enterovirus/Rhinovirus, and is now increasing presentations of influenza and RSV, as well as stable COVID-19.”

The increase has also led to the cancellation of pediatric surgeries as the facility’s limited ICU beds are occupied by children with severe respiratory illnesses.

The province has only 21 pediatric intensive care beds, which are located at BCCH, Victoria General and University of Northern BC hospitals.

Wait times in the BC Children’s Hospital emergency room have been as high as 12 hours in recent weeks. On Saturday afternoon, the waits were considerably shorter, around two hours and 30 minutes starting at 3:30 p.m.

However, earlier in the day, it had been up to eight hours.

And BCCH isn’t even the busiest pediatric ED in BC. That distinction belongs to Surrey Memorial Hospital, where doctors said last month they were dealing with four times the number of patients the ER was designed for, and 100 more a day than they last saw. year.

“The pediatric ER has been overloaded for a while and we have expanded to the adult side, where we are now using two treatment beds,” said Dr. Randeep Gill, an emergency physician at SMH.

“We see approximately 250 children per day during the surge, but it was built for 72 patient visits per day.”

A similar increase in demand for pediatric hospital beds in Alberta recently led to the cancellation of respite services at Rotary Flames House, that province’s pediatric hospice. Staff at the facility have been redeployed to assist Alberta Children’s Hospital with its high volume of patients.

CTV News contacted Vancouver’s Canuck Place Children’s Hospice to ask if similar measures were being considered in BC, but was told the staffing model is different in this province because Canuck Place is a private hospice.

The facility said no one from BC Children’s Hospital or PHSA has asked for additional beds or staff.


With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Penny Daflos

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