Death toll climbs to 6 at Kelowna care home COVID outbreak | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Death toll climbs to 6 at Kelowna care home COVID outbreak

Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Spring Valley Care Centre
May 14, 2021 - 3:11 PM

The death toll due to COVID-19 at the Spring Valley Care Centre in Kelowna has climbed to six as of today.

But Interior Health’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Albert de Villiers, cast doubts on how many of those deaths – and many others in the province – are actually due to COVID-19.

“If somebody dies while they have got COVID in the hospital or in the community, they’re counted as a COVID death,” he said during a news briefing today, May 14. “So, if I’m 89 years old, I tested positive for COVID on Tuesday, on Wednesday I die of a heart attack or I have palliative cancer and on Thursday I die because of the cancer, it’s still going to be counted as a COVID death at that point because I had COVID.”

For some, COVID is the last straw that leads to their death. For others, they have no symptoms.

He can’t say how often COVID is listed as the cause of death when it really isn't but noted  “we’ve seen quite a few of those.”

The B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons has given guidance to its members on how to classify COVID deaths.

“COVID-19 should be recorded on the medical certificate of cause of death for all decedents where the disease caused, or is assumed to have caused, or contributed to death," the college said.

On its web page, the college talks about listing a primary cause of death and conditions leading to that cause. One example given is to record the immediate cause of death as acute respiratory distress syndrome but to also include pneumonia and COVID-19 as “conditions leading to the cause.”

It seems, however, that COVID is often listed as the primary cause, even in asystomatic patients.

“They get asymptomatic COVID infection and it’s just an incidental finding a few days or a week before they pass away,” Dr. de Villiers said while talking about deaths in long-term care that are classified as COVID deaths. “Some do get COVID and do get actual symptoms as well.”

In an email from the Ministry of Health to iNFOnews.ca, it gives the following explanation on how COVID deaths are recorded.

“If a COVID-19 case dies without recovering from their infection (e.g. within ten days of their illness onset), it is counted by medical health officers as a COVID-19 death and reported as such to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control,” it states. “However, if a COVID-19 case were to die in a different manner, i.e. a fall or from severe blood loss, it would not be counted as a COVID-19 death, even if it were within the 10 days of illness onset.”

It goes on to say that the doctor records the primary or secondary causes of death, not the medical health officer.

Dr. de Villiers has noted on a number of occasions that many people in long-term care have multiple illnesses and are often quite old.

“Unfortunately, the data isn’t necessarily very clean because, I think, sometimes, if we actually had more in-depth information, we could have potentially re-diagnosed those cases and said, OK, you didn’t die of COVID.”

As of yesterday, May 13, 1,632 B.C. residents were recorded as having died from COVID-19. As of May 1, there were 994 deaths in long term care homes and 1,366 people who died in B.C. were over the age of 70.

See the guidelines from the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons here.

— This story was corrected at 4:41 p.m. Friday, May 14, 2021 as the number of deaths was incorrectly reported at seven. There have been six deaths.


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