Major Sorting Has Started in Alberta Hospitals, Emergency Physician Says

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Alberta Medical Association chief of emergency medicine, Dr. Paul Parks, says the major components of triage have already begun in Alberta, a claim the province questions.


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The dispute comes as the Canadian Armed Forces prepare to bring in air transport and personnel to deal with a COVID-19 crisis that overwhelms Alberta hospitals.

Parks said that in recent days some seriously ill COVID-19 patients who should have been on ventilators were not receiving them. That is in addition to previously announced massive surgery cancellations, along with patient transfers, as doctors balance medical need with available space, he said.

Parks said it has become routine in hospitals in the last two weeks to have some critically ill patients, most of them with unvaccinated COVID-19 cases, kept in main wards rather than intensive care units. with fans because they don’t have the resources.

“We are already in positions in many Alberta hospitals where doctors know it would be best for this patient to be in the ICU and have a ventilator, but we will not provide that option until he is absolutely deteriorating to the point of collapse,” Parks said Friday. In an interview.


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“We are already implementing some of these things that are drastic and we wish we never had.

“People will suffer and die from this.”

Alberta Health Services responded in a statement, saying, “We recognize that we are operating with a reduced level of care, yet safety remains at the forefront of all decisions.

“Any patient who currently requires mechanical ventilation can receive it.”

Parks said it’s not at the point where doctors have to make life-and-death decisions on the spot. But that is not too far, he said, and when it does come, the second stage of triage will follow quickly, including making those same decisions about children.

Alberta Health Services said triage will only be invoked if all efforts to increase intensive care capacity are exhausted.


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There are currently 368 intensive care spaces with 304 patients, most of whom are seriously ill with COVID-19, and most of them unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.

Alberta typically has 173 intensive care spaces, but has been converting other spaces, including operating rooms, into ad hoc critical care rooms to meet the demand for COVID-19.

As of early Friday afternoon, intensive care units across the province were operating at 83 percent of capacity after 18 additional beds were added in the past 24 hours.

Without more than doubling its intensive care beds, Alberta would be operating at 177% capacity.

Alberta Health Services Director Dr. Verna Yiu said Thursday that a key reason intensive care wards have not been overwhelmed is because enough COVID-19 patients are dying to free up space in the bed.


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The Edmonton Zone operates ICU at 84% capacity, while the Central Zone operates at more than 100%, the Calgary Zone at 75%, the North Zone at 87% and the South Zone at 89%.

Alberta has more than 20,000 active COVID-19 cases and is seeing more than 1,000 new cases per day.

The number of deaths from COVID-19 has also been on the rise.

29 deaths were reported on Tuesday, 20 more on Wednesday, including the first person under the age of 20, and 17 on Thursday. More than 2,600 people have died in Alberta since the pandemic began.

Prime Minister Jason Kenney has requested emergency assistance from other provinces and the federal government.

Andrew McKelvey, a spokesman for the Department of National Defense, said in a statement Friday that they have been asked to provide up to eight intensive care nurses, along with air transportation for patients to other health facilities in Canada.

Air travel should be ready to go in 24 hours and nurses in 72 hours, McKelvey said.

Parks and other doctors, meanwhile, urge Kenney to install a “firewall” to reverse the large number of new COVID-19 cases, starting with closing schools and banning mass gatherings, such as sporting events.

More to come

With files from Ashley Joannou and Lisa Johnson



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