Alberta Children’s Hospital will temporarily close 75 percent of its operating rooms in response to the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, according to Alberta Health Services.
AHS confirmed to Global News that the Calgary hospital is reducing all activity as part of a “response to a level four pandemic,” its highest alert level.
“This equates to about 75 percent of all surgeries, including pediatric,” an AHS spokesperson said in a statement. “Urgent, emergent and prioritized surgeries (including cancer surgeries) will continue.”
According to AHS, the closure of the operating rooms at Alberta Children’s Hospital is an effort to redeploy physicians and staff to adult care sites.
The decision comes as Alberta announced 2,020 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday with 911 people in the hospital with the virus and 215 in intensive care.
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Nicole Banman, whose son Brodie was due to have an operation to repair a cleft palate in mid-October, learned of the postponed procedure on Friday.
“Being very close to surgery to repair his palate, (so he could) start eating normally, drinking normally for a child his age, (we) should be excited,” Banman told Global News.
Now hearing all of this is heartbreaking. It makes me want to throw up. “
Her son Brodie is 14 months old and has spent much of his youth in the hospital due to a rare complication called hypoplastic left heart syndrome immediately after birth.
Banman said her son is currently using a feeding tube while they wait for news about when the procedure will be rescheduled.
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“My heart goes out to all the parents who are affected by this pandemic,” Banman said. “It just makes me want to scream and scream. We are very close to repairing my son’s palate, speaking correctly and being a somewhat normal child. “
Banman said Brodie’s procedure has been prioritized as an emergency surgery once those procedures recover after the elevated COVID-19 response.
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The operating room closure is also concerning for local pediatric physicians like Dr. Roxanne Goldade.
Goldade is a former section chief at Alberta Children’s Hospital and said she has never seen a situation like these temporary closures in her career.
“We’ve never been this bad,” Goldade said.
“We are all agile enough to be able to close things, but we never got this close to where we are now. This is scary. I’m afraid.”
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According to Goldade, a trickle-down effect of the closures has already started for both local community doctors and parents.
He said one of his patients will now have to wait even longer for treatment and diagnosis.
“A 15-year-old boy who was found to have an injury, a kidney mass, and he knows what that means.
“It says in the note, ‘This kid needs a kidney biopsy ASAP,'” Goldade said.
“I’m afraid he will not be one of those kids who take 25 percent of our time. So you can imagine what is going through the brain of that child and that of his parents. “
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Goldade said he fears the next problem will be a mental health crisis directly related to the pandemic for both patients and medical staff.
“Our children are getting the brunt of all of this,” he said. “We are going to have a very deep chronic mental health crisis looming.”
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