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B.C COVID-19 ICU deaths lower than global numbers: study

Doctors credit fast response by officials, people’s curve-flattening actions

The death rate of Lower Mainland people admitted to intensive care units (ICU) with COVID-19 symptoms has been significantly lower than in other areas of the world, says a study released in the Canadian Medical Association Journal May 27.

The study found a mortality rate of 15%, a figure it compared to earlier study results with mortality rates as high as 62 per cent for ICU patients in Wuhan, China; 50 per cent in Seattle, Washington; 26 per cent in Lombardy, Italy; and 23 per cent in New York.

B.C provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she would need some time to look at the study and would comment after reviewing it carefully.

The study tracked outcomes of 117 patients admitted to six Metro Vancouver ICUs between Feb. 21 and April 14. As of May 5, 85% was recovered or still recovering while 61 per cent had been discharged.

The Lower Mainland study found patient demographics similar to those in other areas, including medical use of mechanical ventilation, prone ventilation and high-flow oxygen therapy.

A significant difference between B.C. and the other areas was the preparedness of ICUs, said senior study author Dr. Donald Griesdale, a Vancouver General Hospital critical care physician and UBC’s Faculty of Medicine associate professor.

“We did not get overwhelmed by a surge of patients with COVID-19 as they did in other parts of the world,” he said. “We had the capacity to ensure that all patients with COVID-19 had access to critical care if they needed it — we didn’t have to make choices about who should go into the ICU.”

Provincial officials moved in mid-March to cancel non-urgent and elective surgeries to ensure availability for COVID-19 patients.

Griesdale also paid tribute to British Columbians who heeded lockdown restrictions and helped flatten the infection curve rate. That helped prevent a surge that could have overwhelmed hospitals, he said.

“It reflects the strong leadership we have in public health, at the provincial level from Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Bonnie Henry, and in our own health authorities by Dr. Patricia Daly in (Vancouver Coastal Health) and Dr. Martin Lavoie at Fraser Health,” Griesdale said.

“People listened and did their part by staying home and practicing social distancing as they were asked to. Those collective actions by everyone didn’t just flatten the curve; they saved lives.”

The study said some 40 per cent of patients were admitted to an ICU on a daily basis, compared with the New York situation where 22% patients were admitted to an ICU at some point in their treatment.

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