Study finds lower COVID-19 death rate in Metro Vancouver ICUs than other cities

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People admitted to intensive care at Lower Mainland hospitals were less likely to die of COVID-19 than patients in other regions around the world, according to a new study.

The case series, published Wednesday in the Canadan Medical Association Journal, looked at the outcomes of 117 COVID-19 patients admitted to ICUs in six Metro Vancouver hospitals between Feb. 21 and Apr. 14.

It found that 15 per cent of those Metro Vancouver patients died.


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That’s compared to 23 per cent in New York, 26 per cent in Lombardy, Italy and 50 per cent in Seattle. In Wuhan, China, where the novel coronavirus was first detected, the ICU death rate was a whopping 62 per cent.

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Local patients and those in comparative regions had similar demographics and severity of illness.

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The study highlights the province’s decision to cancel thousands of scheduled surgeries in mid-March, before the first wave of the pandemic hit B.C. in earnest, as a key difference from those other jurisdictions.

“Because we postponed elective surgeries we were able to build and re-purpose those other beds to critical care beds,” said Dr. Donald Griesdale, senior author of the study and critical care physician at Vancouver General Hospital.

“So we were greatly able to increase our amount of available space, and when you have space, you’re able to then admit patients, you’ve got lots of capacity so that patients who need the care you can actually provide the care to.”


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The study also makes notes of B.C.’s success at “flattening the curve” of infection through public health measures such as banning mass gatherings, closing restaurants and personal services businesses and requiring international travellers to self-isolate for 14 days.

“Preventing our ICUs from being overwhelmed allowed them to be appropriately resourced to provide optimal critical care to patients with COVID-19,” states the study.

“Normal ratios of health care worker to patient were maintained, personal protective equipment supply was sufficient and health care workers did not need to provide care that was outside of their normal scope of practice.”

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The study noted that about 40 per cent of COVID-19 patients presenting to Metro Vancouver hospitals were put in ICU, versus about 22 per cent in New York.

As of May 27, there were 37 people in B.C. hospitals with COVID-19, just seven of them in intensive care.


© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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