CEO & Chief MHO Joint Update: May 7, 2020


These are challenging and uncertain times for all of us as we begin to move through to the next phase of COVID-19 – the B.C. Restart Plan – finding the fine line between expanding our circles while still protecting the most vulnerable within our families and communities. For young people who have not physically seen friends, attended school nor had the ability to participate in the activities outside the home, the past days and weeks must seem endless.

Today on National Child and Youth Mental Health Day, we are asking you, as parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbours and coaches to connect with young people in your circle about mental wellness. The theme for this year is ‘caring’ and provides each of us with a reason to simple say you care and are there for the young people in our lives. Additional information and resources are available here.


Following yesterday’s provincial announcement of the B.C. Restart Plan, Premier John Horgan, Minster Adrian Dix and Dr. Bonnie Henry outlined their commitment to surgical renewal in B.C. this morning. All health authorities, including Island Health, worked closely with the Ministry of Health on this plan, which lays out a path to catch-up on the thousands of surgeries postponed to create capacity in our health system as we prepared for, and responded to, the impacts of the initial wave of COVID-19.

Across B.C., 30,000 scheduled surgeries were postponed, and an estimated 24,000 new surgeries were not scheduled. Island Health accounts for around 4,000 of those postponed surgeries. The renewal plan has us beginning to call patients over the next 10 days to confirm if they are ready and willing to have their surgery. We will begin performing scheduled elective surgical procedures after the May long weekend, ramping up over the course of four weeks to near normal pre-COVID capacity by June 15.

The plan stresses things must be done differently in order to be safe, requiring health authorities to work with the Ministry to implement foundational requirements before we proceed – work we already have underway with our surgical program. These requirements include:

  • implementing new clinical assessment protocols,
  • evidence-based clinical guidelines for managing patients through surgery and recommendations for necessary PPE based on COVID status,
  • ensuring available supply of PPE,
  • getting pre- and post-operative services running in a way that support guidelines to keep everyone safe,
  • ensuring we have the staff and medical staff available to provide the increased level of service, and
  • Island Health members involved in this work have the support needed to rise to this challenge in a healthy and productive way.

Once scheduled surgeries are up and running at our near-normal capacity levels, we will begin exploring incrementally expanded capacity through extending daily hours, adding weekends, and working with our surgical centre partners on increasing capacity. This ambitious plan will come with additional funding from the province, allowing us to add additional staff, which will bring with it a need for a targeted and proactive recruitment effort. We will need to train and hire operating room nurses, housekeeping staff, equipment reprocessing support staff, and others. There is a lot of work in front of us, but thanks to the incredible efforts of our staff and medical staff leading our planning, we are well positioned to provide the care our patients require.

More details are available on today’s announcement:


Today Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister Adrian Dix announced 33 new COVID-19 confirmed cases across B.C. in the last 24 hours, for total of 2,288 cases. There are 1,512 individuals who no longer have to practice isolation measures. Sadly, two additional deaths in the Lower Mainland were noted, for a total of 126 deaths in the province due to COVID-19.

At Island Health, we have 124 confirmed COVID-19 positive cases – no increase over the past 24 hours. Two patients remain in hospital with one in critical care. We now have 110 people no longer having to remain in self-isolation, as they are no longer at-risk of transmitting the virus. [In the linked documents below, Dr. Henry noted Island Health had 126 confirmed cases. For clarity, today Island Health has a total of 124 confirmed cases.]

Dr. Henry reinforced today that we are still in phase one of the B.C. Restart Plan and we need to continue to follow the public health guidelines we have been following for a little longer. If we are successful, we will be able to advance to phase two of the Plan after the long weekend. It is not the time to expand our circles just yet, but it will be soon if we keep our focus.

You can read more in the joint statement and read the transcript from today’s media availability.

North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week

Every year during NAOSH week, joint occupational health and safety committee (JOHSC) members from Island Health promote and highlight the importance of health and safety in our work.

For our colleagues in occupational health and safety, the hierarchy of controls, shared by Dr. Henry this week as part of her presentation on restarting B.C., is a common pyramid used by these professionals to identify and mitigate hazards in the workplace.

As we move forward together in our new normal, we are thankful for the dedicated support provided by the Occupational Health and Safety professionals and JOHSC members for their role in guidance as we mitigate the hazards of COVID-19. Read more about how our Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee is marking the occasion here.


May 7

Today, we end on a somber note. We have been intensely focusing on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic public health emergency - it has and continues to be one of the most uncertain challenges of our time. At the same time, we continue to battle the opioid overdose public health crisis in B.C. Today, the BC Coroners Service released the latest report on illicit drug toxicity deaths - to the end of March 2020.

Tragically, 113 people in B.C. lost their lives to illicit drugs in March, marking the first time in more than a year that we lost more than 100 people in a month. They were taken from their family, friends and communities. In Island Health, we saw an 80% increase in deaths in March compared to the January and February average for this year. Of these deaths, none were reported in supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites. To those who lost loved ones to this crisis, our thoughts are with you at this time.

To all members of the Island Health family who are supporting marginalized populations during this public health emergency, including those who are helping transition individuals to more secure housing, you have our deepest gratitude for your commitment, efforts and compassion. To the rest of the Island Health family, if you know one our colleagues working in this area of service delivery, we invite you to reach out to them virtually and let them know your appreciation for their efforts.

With sincere appreciation,

~ Kathy and Richard

Stay informed:

  • Visit Island Health's ‘source of truth,’ COVID-19 webpage on the Intranet.
  • The Medical Staff website has specific information for medical staff.
  • Nurses and Nurse Practitioners of BC have resources here.
  • We are also posting information for the public at and through our social media channels. We encourage you to follow/retweet/share BCCDC’s and Island Health’s posts.