B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about COVID-19 at a press conference today, March 21, in Vancouver. (B.C. Government video still)

Doctors will have help with any ‘distressing decisions’ around which COVID-19 patients get ventilators

Provincial health officer says ethical framework in place

Doctors facing potentially “distressing decisions” around distribution of ventilators to patients will have guidelines and support, says B.C.’s top doctor.

When asked if there are enough ventilator units in the Island Health area and whether doctors would have to choose who would receive them, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C. health officer, said the province has a strategy in place for that.

“There are ventilators on Vancouver Island. We have other ones coming in, but no single physician will have to make those decisions in isolation,” Henry said during media availability. “We have an ethical framework and we have a provincial framework that supports how those decisions might be made, if and when they were ever necessary. But all of our planning is to support each facility around the province to make sure that we can react to where people are and where people are needing care, so this is not something that an individual physician will have to do on their own.

“These are terribly distressing decisions and I think it’s a reflection of the concern and what we’re seeing around the world that puts us in moral distress. We talk about it in the ethical world and we have a plan. We’ve been working on our ethical framework for this type of a situation for many years.”

According to numbers provided by Henry on Saturday, there 424 cases of COVID-19 across the province, including 37 on Vancouver Island. Of all B.C. residents diagnosed, 27 are in hospital, 12 people are in intensive care and six have fully recovered.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said everyone must contribute in order to curb the pandemic.

“That is why all of the steps we’re asking people to take, to stop the spread of COVID-19, require 100 support,” said Dix at the press conference. “Because our ability that we are making significant changes in the health care system, we still have to take care of lots of people who are dealing with lots of other things and continue to make intervention in urgent matters … and that responsibility is collective and it’s also individual on everybody out there. On Vancouver Island and everywhere else.”

As of Thursday, Island Health said it has 96 intensive care unit beds available and 140 ventilators, 22 of which are transport ventilators.

RELATED: Over 400 COVID-19 cases in B.C., 37 on Island

READ ALSO: Island Health isn’t sharing locations of COVID-19 cases for privacy reasons

-with files from Nina Grossman, Black Press


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