Following intense public pressure and scrutiny, British Columbia health officials have finally revealed a more accurate account of how many patients are in hospital due to COVID-19.
More than a week after CTV News asked for the numbers and was first to report on the dual accounting methods, the province now says that as of Tuesday, there were 152 additional patients in hospital due to COVID but who were no longer infectious and therefore had “discontinued isolation.”
On Thursday, it reported 330 infectious and still in hospital, 148 of them in intensive care.
So in fact, British Columbia has more than 480 people in hospital due to COVID-19, both infectious and non-infectious; the province of Manitoba has been reporting its figures this way for some time.
“For most cases, isolation is discontinued after 10 days, provided there is no fever and symptoms are improving,” wrote the government in a press release after failing to respond to CTV’s multiple attempts for clarification and statistics. “These same requirements are in effect in Ontario, Alberta and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. In B.C., for serious cases, the guideline is 20 days.”
Dr. Bonnie Henry had sidestepped CTV News’ question on the matter on Tuesday, refusing to give the total number and pointing out they’d always kept two sets of COVID-19 patient counts.
The ministry turned down several requests to discuss the matter further with Henry.
“The Ministry of Health looks at hospitalizations and critical-care beds to ensure the sustainability of the system,” noted the statement, which doesn’t commit to providing the non-infectious hospitalization number in the future, nor does it explain why the public is left in the dark about how COVID factors into cancelled surgeries, long wait times for emergency care, and the inability to support Alberta’s collapsing health-care system.
The policy has prompted intense criticism and calls for greater transparency from health officials, which has been an issue throughout the pandemic.
Hours after the statement, the province released its daily infection and hospitalization numbers the way it always has, without “time-cleared” or “off-precautions” patients in the summary and noting hospitalized patients as a subset of overall active COVID-19 cases.
CTV News asked whether the ministry would adopt the same reporting structure as Manitoba and Ontario and amend its reporting to include all hospitalizations due to COVID-19, whether infectious or not.
“We are always trying to provide more data and information to the public, including in the BCCDC Surveillance Dashboard and situation report,” wrote a senior ministry spokesperson. “The BCCDC is considering that.”
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