Alberta Children's Hospital installing additional space to cope with surge of emergency department visits

Amid a surge of emergency department visits, the Alberta Children’s Hospital has added additional waiting space in the form of a heated trailer that will be used as an extra waiting area when the hospital’s emergency department is full.

A trailer next to the emergency department will be operational in early Dec., AHS says

A trailer has been set up outside the Alberta Children's Hospital emergency department to provide additional space to cope with an influx of visits, AHS said. (Nick Brizuela/Radio Canada)

Amid an influx of emergency department visits, the Alberta Children's Hospital is adding additional waiting space that will be used when the hospital's emergency department is at capacity.

It comes at a time when a recent spike in respiratory viruses within the community has caused a 20 to 30 per cent increase in visits to the ACH's emergency department (ED).

The health authority said the ED is seeing more than 300 visits a day recently, compared to between 180 and 220 prior to the recent surge as the region deals with both COVID-19 and the highest rates of positive flu tests in the country. 

A heated trailer will help the hospital handle the increase in patients by providing additional sheltered waiting space, AHS said.

The trailer is located beside the ED and was dropped off Saturday. It is not yet operational.

"This space will be used when the ED is experiencing surges in patient volume and will be monitored in the same way as the ED waiting area inside the building," AHS spokesperson Kirsten Goruk said in a statement. 

"No matter where patients are seen at the hospital site, they will always receive the appropriate treatment."

They anticipate that the additional space will be operational in early December.

Earlier this week AHS confirmed a short stay unit has been opened, in addition to an overflow ED to fast-track less serious patients, which is already operational.

On Nov. 20, AHS said that both ACH and the Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton were at 96 per cent in-patient capacity.

The pediatric ICUs are close to 100 per cent of their normal capacity. 

AHS said it has no plans to put trailers at other hospitals at this time.

The trailer intended to help relieve some pressure off of the emergency room during evenings and weekends.

"This additional space is a comfort measure to help with crowding and weather conditions," Goruk said, adding it would not used as a primary treatment area. 

AHS did not say how many people the trailer will be able to accommodate.


Omar Sherif is a digital journalist with CBC Calgary. You can contact him at