Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry listens during a news conference about the provincial response to the coronavirus, in Vancouver, on Friday, March 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck.

‘We need to do more’: Fraser Health doctors send dire letter to Dr. Bonnie Henry

Letter says hospitals soon to be ‘overwhelmed,’ urges closure of all non-essential businesses

Over 200 Fraser Health doctors endorsed a letter sent to the top provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, urging her to take further decisive action on COVID-19. The letter begs the closure of all non-essential businesses and heavier use of social distancing – their words seem to have had some effect.

“We need to act now to prevent a catastrophic number of preventable deaths,” the letter says. “At our current rate of spread, our hospitals will become overwhelmed within a few weeks… We need to do more.”

Today, March 21, coinciding with the daily updates of new COVID-19 cases, Henry announced that all personal-service businesses would have to close, along with the somber news of another 74 cases, and one more death. These businesses include hair salons, and massage and tattoo parlours, among others.

“I know most of these businesses have closed, but it’s come to my attention that there is still confusion out there about whether or not they should be open,” Henry said. “We want to make it very clear that the expectation is that these will be closed.”

The letter cites over 250,000 cases worldwide, with over 11,000 deaths; points to B.C.’s infection trajectory being the same as Italy’s, where 627 recently died in a single day, adding to a total death toll of over 4,000; countries in the European Union seeing cases double every three or four days (the same as B.C.); the closure of all non-essential businesses in Toronto, PEI, California, Illinois and New York City; and South Korea’s success in reducing their infection rate through stricter measures.

“Tragically, Italy has had to choose who can receive intensive medical care based on age and risk profile; please to not force us to implement similar policies here as our hospitals become overrun,” the letter says. “A community lock-down may seem drastic, but experiences throughout the rest of the world clearly how critical it is to act decisively and urgently.”

Fraser Health’s largest hospital, Royal Columbian Hospital, is described as facing shortages in staff and resources.

“Our team of physicians are at Royal Columbian Hospital [are] working tirelessly,” the letter says. “We will lose this battle unless we act immediately… We urge you to implement these measures now that we may have a fighting chance.”

The doctor’s pleas also press for the closure of public parks and beaches, a limitation on hospital visitors and a public awareness campaign about social distancing.

The letter is signed by Dr. Gerald Da Roza, head of medicine at Royal Columbian Hospital.

There are now 424 cases in B.C., and the death toll has reached 10 as per Henry’s announcement today.

RELATED: More than 400 COVID-19 cases, 10 deaths in B.C.

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