Child day care spaces at Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton have been temporarily converted for emergency use as demand for emergency care soars across Alberta.
“Due to high patient demand and acuity in the emergency department at the University of Alberta Hospital, we will begin using Stollery Children’s Hospital’s renovated day space for emergency room overflow. adult or pediatric,” Kerry Williamson, spokesperson for Alberta Health Services, told Global News on Saturday.
News of the changes became public after Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley tweeted a photo of an AHS memo.
The letter dated Monday, January 17, said the decision to take over the emergency overflow would begin as early as last Wednesday.
“This repurposing of space means the Stollery will maintain the current seven operating rooms, rather than expanding to eight operating rooms as planned for February 2022.
“If pediatric surgery volumes experience a sharp increase, new options and solutions will be explored.”
The renovated day room was not yet used for pediatric surgical patients, Williamson said, so using the overflow won’t result in any reduction in pediatric surgeries currently being performed at the Stollery.
A small number of scheduled pediatric surgeries that were due to take place in the newly renovated space in February will, however, be postponed, he said.
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Demand for emergency services soars in Alberta
On Friday, Medicine Hat emergency physician Dr. Paul Parks told Global News that some patients in Alberta were having to wait 8 to 10 hours in some emergency rooms.
Even patients without COVID-19 who suffer from chest pain or broken bones face long waits and are often placed in beds in hallways.
These long wait times also tie up paramedics and lead to parked ambulances. EMS teams are often stuck inside hospitals for hours, waiting for their patients to be admitted.
In mid-January, the president of the Alberta Health Sciences Association said the EMS system was “stretched to a point we’ve never been.”
On January 10 alone, there were more than a dozen red alerts in the Edmonton area – these are usually not triggered unless there is a major disaster. A red alert or “code red” refers to times when there are no ambulances available to respond to calls.
Alberta opens beds in pandemic response units
Earlier this week, Alberta Health announced it would open additional beds in the Pandemic Response Unit at Kaye Clinic in Edmonton and South Health Campus in Calgary to help ease the strain on the system. health.
Alberta Health Services CEO Dr. Verna Yiu said 18 beds are ready to be activated at the Kaye Clinic, with plans to open 18 more beds the week of Jan. 31 if needed.
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Alberta doctors say province needs to do more than increase capacity
Pandemic Response Units were prepared earlier in the pandemic to act as surge capacity and care for patients with COVID-19 who are almost ready to be discharged from the hospital, but who may require medical attention. additional monitoring.
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However, Yiu pointed out that easing pressure on the healthcare system is not as easy as simply opening up beds. Staffing was more difficult during the Omicron wave.
There are thousands of healthcare workers with the virus or burnout, in addition to those who have left the profession altogether.
Yiu said AHS’s absenteeism rate is high, with 5% of staff sick at any one time. This translates to approximately 5,500 employees province-wide. Yiu said 18 to 20 percent of shifts go unfilled every day due to illness.
To help deal with the shortage, hundreds of nursing students are being put to work and will receive college credit.
Heather Smith, president of the United Nurses of Alberta, said “corporate” or “out-of-scope” staff are also being transferred to patient care to take care of things like screening, appointments and distribution of meals.
COVID numbers continue to set records in Alberta
Hospitalizations continued to rise last week: up to 1,191 people on Friday from 1,131 people on Thursday – figures previously unprecedented in the pandemic.
The number of patients being treated in intensive care fell by one person to 107 on Friday. Eight additional deaths have been reported to Alberta Health in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll in the province to 3,429.
Alberta reported 3,592 lab-confirmed cases on Friday from just over 10,500 tests. The positivity rate was 35.3%. Active cases fell slightly to 61,615 on Friday.
The province said the reported numbers are far lower than the actual presence of the virus in the community, due to limited access to PCR testing. COVID-19 numbers are not released on weekends, so the next update is expected early next week.
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Stollery spaces repurposed during the pandemic before
This isn’t the first time the space inside the Stollery has been revamped during the pandemic.
In December 2020, space was freed up inside the hospital’s pediatric ICU for critically ill adult patients during the second wave of COVID.
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AHS said the changes to the Stollery are part of the pandemic plan for the Walter C. Mackenzie Health Sciences Center complex in Edmonton, which houses the Children’s Hospital, University of Alberta Hospital, Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute, Clinical Sciences Building and Kaye Edmonton Clinic. .
“During these extraordinary times, AHS has had to make significant changes to the way we deliver health care,” Williamson said.
“What has remained the same – anyone in need of urgent and emergency health care will receive it.”
Alberta’s Stollery Intensive Care Unit will see adult patients with COVID-19
The current Stollery Children’s Hospital was built in 2001, with the majority of services and beds located at the University of Alberta Hospital and the Walter C. Mackenzie Health Sciences Centre.
The Stollery operates 236 beds and is the largest children’s hospital by bed count west of Toronto. It sees over 300,000 patient visits per year.
— With files from Emily Mertz, Breanna Karstens-Smith and Caley Gibson, Global News
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