B.C. Children’s Hospital prepared to double-bunk patients amid spike in respiratory illness


The B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver has approved double-bunking patients in single-occupancy rooms as it tries to cope with an influx of patients with respiratory illnesses.

A memo obtained by The Canadian Press says that while it’s preferable that patients be in single rooms, two patients may share one room “if required to provide safe care.”

The decision comes as the province grapples with a spike in respiratory infections that has included an unusually high number of childhood deaths.

The memo, sent Friday, says similar measures have been implemented in other years and adds that any decision to double up must be made in consultation with the hospital’s infection prevention and control team.

In a statement, infectious disease pediatrician Dr. Laura Sauve said the memo was a routine clinical reminder that’s part of the planning process for a difficult respiratory season.

As of Monday morning, there were no patients sharing rooms in the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit, she said

Ministry strongly encourages flu shots for all ages

Last week, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province was seeing a “dramatic increase” in illness, and it arrived sooner than the seasonal flu usually would.

“I cannot stress enough the importance of influenza immunizations right now. This year in particular,” said Henry, speaking to reporters in Vancouver on Monday, Dec. 5. The following Thursday, the province confirmed that six children and youth have died this year after contracting influenza.

Henry explained that many young children weren’t exposed to influenza in the last two years thanks to COVID-19 restrictions and public health measures, meaning they have a higher chance of getting sick this year.

An average of two to three children died in the province from the flu each year between 2015 and 2019, data from the BC Coroners Service shows.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said at the same time that provincial emergency rooms had been seeing a peak of up to 6,900 patients daily, and the province is prepared to cancel non-urgent surgeries to make more room in hospitals if it becomes necessary.

The province has been encouraging adults and young people to get their flu shots and recommending people stay home when sick and wear masks when experiencing mild symptoms.

Monday afternoon, the B.C. Ministry of Health said over 77,500 people were vaccinated against influenza from Dec. 5 to 11, and over 42,000 flu shots were administered during a walk-in clinic blitz from Friday to Sunday.

 The province says about 30 per cent of the general population in B.C. over the age of six months has received a flu vaccine, including 186,606 young people between the ages of six months and 17 years.

“Public-health officials are continuing to encourage families and caregivers to get themselves and their children vaccinated against influenza in advance of the holidays,” said the ministry in a statement.

The ministry says influenza and COVID-19 immunizations are free for everyone six months and older and more information on how to sign up for your flu shot is available on its website.

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