Nanaimo’s Dr. David Forrest made a video address this week, stressing that COVID-19 is a serious disease and expressing concern that it could overwhelm the health-care system on Vancouver Island. (Leigh Gibson-Unickow/Facebook image)

Nanaimo’s Dr. David Forrest made a video address this week, stressing that COVID-19 is a serious disease and expressing concern that it could overwhelm the health-care system on Vancouver Island. (Leigh Gibson-Unickow/Facebook image)

Doctor concerned about COVID-19 ‘overpowering’ Island’s health-care system

Dr. David Forrest releases video imploring people to take measures to prevent spreading coronavirus

A Nanaimo physician says Vancouver Island could be hit harder than Italy if the number of coronavirus cases gets out of hand here.

Dr. David Forrest, an infectious diseases specialist and physician at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, turned to social media this week to plead with the public to help control the spread of the coronavirus to prevent COVID-19 cases from “overpowering” the medical system.

In a video message, more than seven minutes long and circulated on social media Monday, Forrest said that Vancouver Island has far fewer ICU ventilator beds than what are available to populations in the rest of the Western world. If the medical system on the Island becomes overwhelmed, he said, “some of you will get very sick and some of you will die. It may be your mother, your grandfather, your best friend, your child.”

Forrest said there were about 30 known cases on the Island, but those cases were confirmed because those patients were tested and he said it’s likely there are hundreds or thousands of people infected.

While it’s true, he said, that many people are not very sick, others are and if even only 20 per cent of Canada’s population become infected and just one or two per cent of those patients die, the death toll could reach 140,000 across the country.

“That’s staggering,” he said. “In Nanaimo, if 20,000 become infected, that’s 400 people who could die, but many more than that will need hospital care.”

If 14 per cent of those infected need hospital care, it means NRGH will be flooded with 2,800 patients, five per cent of whom will require intensive care unit services. But NRGH as a regional medical centre serves the central Island region with a population of about 200,000 people, so the numbers of people needing hospitalization could double.

“The burden on our health-care system will be massive and overwhelming,” Forrest said. “We are worse off in Nanaimo because we only have 4.5 ventilator ICU beds in Nanaimo per 100,000 people. That’s far less than there are in the rest of the western world, far less than there are in Italy where their health-care system has been massively overwhelmed.”

RELATED: COVID-19 pandemic is no time for divisiveness, North Island medical health officer says

Last week Island Health said it had 96 intensive care beds and 140 ventilators.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, said during a press conference Saturday that “there are ventilators on Vancouver Island” and more being added to the system. Asked if there are enough ventilators at NRGH and if doctors may potentially have to choose who should receive them, she said no single physician will have to make those kinds of “distressing decisions” in isolation.

RELATED: Doctors will have help with any ‘distressing decisions’ around which COVID-19 patients get ventilators

Forrest said COVID-19 is not an old person’s disease and said it’s likely common that youths get the virus and even if they’re asymptomatic, might be passing it on to others.

“Yes, it is older people and those with underlying medical conditions that are most at risk for complications, but up to 50 per cent of ICU admissions have been for people under age 50 and, while fewer than half of people who go to ICU die, most of those who get through ICU are on a breathing machine with tubes stuck in every orifice and poked daily for intravenous lines for blood work for weeks and it is yet unclear if there will be any permanent lung damage from the infection,” Forrest said. “COVID-19 is a serious disease.”

READ ALSO: B.C. reports 3 new COVID-19 deaths but 100 people have recovered, Henry says

READ ALSO: Fraser Health says ‘well-intentioned call to action’ from Surrey nurse contains ‘misinformation’

READ ALSO: Stay informed about COVID-19



photos@nanaimobulletin.com
Like us on
Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The City of Victoria filed a petition with the Supreme Court of B.C. March 2 to have it clarify whether, under the Trustee Act, Beacon Hill Park can be used for temporary sheltering. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria asks court to clarify if Beacon Hill Park can be used for sheltering

City of Victoria filed petition to Supreme Court of B.C. March 2

The application proposing to rezone Western Speedway was passed by Langford’s planning, zoning and affordable housing committee Feb 8. A petition has since been started by residents of Trudie Terrace, hoping to stop the proposed residential portion of the development plan. (CBRE Victoria)
Petition opposing Western Speedway development proposal gains steam

Save Thetis Heights Neighborhood petition aims to stop extension of Trudie Terrace

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

Boma Brown won the Emerging Leader Award for her work founding the Support Network for Indigenous Women and Women of Colour. (Courtesy of Boma Brown)
Victoria SNIWWOC founder up for national women’s award for volunteer efforts

Victoria’s Boma Brown is a semi-finalist in the running for the L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth award

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

Most Read