Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry give an update on B.C.’s response to COVID-19 in Vancouver on Friday. (Karissa Gall/Black Press Media)

Surrey Memorial’s biocontainment facility playing big role in B.C.’s COVID-19 response

Treatment centre created for B.C.’s Ebola response in 2014, says provincial health officer

B.C.’s provincial health officer says Surrey Memorial Hospital’s Biocontainment Treatment Centre has been “very involved” in the province’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, along with Premier John Horgan and Health Minister Adrian Dix, unveiled B.C.’s response plan for COVID-19 on Friday (March 6).

READ ALSO: B.C. premier, health officials unveil response plan for COVID-19

However, in Surrey, the hospital’s biocontainment centre has been “supporting our response across the province,” Henry said.

“The clinicians who work there have been very involved in our response in helping set up what we call our critical care group,” she said. “They’re looking at, how do we manage people with COVID-19. The difference is this is a respiratory infection that, for the most part, causes mild illness and we’ve seen that so far in the people that we’ve seen here. They’ve not had to be involved in caring with somebody with a severe illness.”

Henry said that because the coronavirus “can spread quite widely in the population,” B.C. needs all of its hospitals and ICUs to be “prepared to deal with this, to manage people and care for people who have this disease.

“It’s not something that we could say, ‘Oh, there’s a limited number of people and they need to go to the biocontainment centre,’ but the people and the expertise that are at that centre are supporting our response across the province.”

For the latest on COVID-19 and coronavirus stories, visit surreynowleader.com/tag/coronavirus.

According to Fraser Health’s website, Surrey Memorial Hospital was selected as B.C.’s “first permanent Biocontainment Treatment Centre” in 2018.

It is meant to “contribute to leading-edge care for emerging and rare diseases and to help guard global public health.”

The hospital “developed expertise” in emerging disease management during the 2014 Ebola preparedness planning exercise. Fraser Health also states that the centre, starting in 2019, will also serve as a training hub “to share knowledge across health care systems.”

“The biocontainment centre, or the high-threat pathogens unit, really arose out of our need about the Ebola response in 2014 where there were health-care workers, in particular from B.C. and from around the world who went to West Africa,” Henry said. “That was the most common thing that we saw when people came back from working in West Africa on the Ebola outbreak and needed to be essentially assessed and we needed to have something in place to care for them.”

Fraser Health states that the risk of British Columbians acquiring a rare pathogen is “extremely low,” and “even if a true case arrives in Fraser Health, we are confident the case would be quickly isolated.”

READ ALSO: Coronavirus causes Surrey schools to cancel trips to Italy, Japan France, March 3, 2020

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