Edmonton

AHS says ICU beds added in hospitals, field hospital ready but not needed yet

A COVID-19 field hospital in Edmonton remains ready for use, but Alberta Health Services said Monday there is no need for it to open yet.

616 COVID-19 patients in hospital Monday. There were 906 during second-wave peak

A critical-care team in an Alberta intensive-care unit. (Alberta Health Services)

A COVID-19 field hospital in Edmonton remains ready for use, but Alberta Health Services says there is no need to open it yet.

The 100-bed "pandemic response unit" was set up inside the Butterdome at the University of Alberta in January, but hasn't been used despite increased demands on hospitals due to surging COVID-19 cases across the province.

A Toronto hospital began moving patients to a field hospital for the first time on Monday. Struggling to keep up with climbing critical care cases, Ontario has also made a formal request for help to the Canadian Armed Forces.

Alberta has also seen spiking cases with 145 COVID-19 patients in intensive-care units on Monday.

Alberta Health Services spokesperson Kerry Williamson said there is capacity to add more space in hospitals. He said AHS has space to treat up to 425 ICU patients if needed.

There were 616 COVID-19 patients in Alberta hospitals on Monday, compared to the 906 patients in hospital at the peak of the second wave on Dec. 30, 2020. 

In Edmonton, 10 additional intensive care unit beds were opened on April 6, and another nine were added on April 16, for a total of 91 in the city, Williamson said. Calgary added 33 additional ICU beds in recent weeks, including four on Sunday, for a total of 99.

On Monday, Edmonton hospitals had 57 COVID-19 patients in ICU, while Calgary had 60.

"There is currently no need for the [pandemic response unit] to open – AHS has adequate capacity for both hospitalized and ICU patients," Williamson said in a statement. 

A field hospital set yp inside the University of Alberta's Butterdome hasn't been used despite increased demands on hospitals. (Alberta Health Services/Twitter)

In Calgary, a field hospital set up at the Peter Lougheed Centre continues to be used as an extension of the emergency department and is not being used for COVID-19 patients. 

Williamson said AHS and Covenant Health staff completed orientation training at the Butterdome field hospital in early February. If a decision is made to open the facility, staff will return for a more detailed orientation before patients are admitted.

The beds would be used for people recovering from COVID-19 who are at low risk of transmitting the virus, Williamson said. Other types of patients could also be cared for at the Butterdome, but it would not be used for ICU care.

Williamson said the rising cases are concerning, and AHS is prepared to redeploy staff and reduce services if needed, as was done in the pandemic's first and second waves.

"We strongly urge Albertans to follow the public health restrictions, and in turn help us ensure the health-care system is there when they need it," he said.

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