Alberta’s overwhelmed ICUs near capacity, military support being deployed

Undated image of a staff member in an intensive care unit in an Alberta hospital during the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Alberta Health Services)

The Canadian Armed Forces has confirmed that it will be sending resources to help with Alberta’s overwhelmed intensive care units facing unprecedented patient numbers during the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aircraft and crews are being assembled to transfer ICU patients to hospitals in other parts of the country. The team is expected to be deployed to Alberta as early as Friday.

Details of the aeromedical transportation co-ordination are currently being developed.

“Our teams have already begun liaising and further planning,” read a statement from National Defence.

Up to eight nurses with ICU training could also arrive in the province by the end of the weekend.

The province reached out to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair earlier this week calling for help from the federal government.

Blair replied Thursday saying the Canadian Red Cross could also be activated to provide additional support.

Alberta hospitals are seeing “unprecedented patient demand,” said Dr. Verna Yiu, Alberta Health Services president and CEO.

As of Thursday, 226 of the 310 patients in ICU were admitted with COVID-19 and the five-day average for patients admitted into ICUs has been slightly more than 23 per day.

“It’s tragic that we are only able to keep pace with these sort of numbers because in part some of our ICU patients have passed away,” said Yiu.

The scale of the crisis could be tipped within a day, when it’s expected the maximum threshold of 350 total ICU patients will be reached and activate triage protocol.

Yiu also said that nothing is standard about the situation.

Source: CTV, September 24, 2021.

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