Alberta has set yet another record for the number of patients requiring critical care as the health-care system buckles under the pressure of the pandemic’s fourth wave.
There are currently 312 patients in intensive care units, the vast majority of whom are COVID-19 positive, an Alberta Health Services (AHS) spokesperson said in a statement Monday morning.
AHS continues to open additional ICU spaces and redeploy staff to meet patient demand, including opening another 38 surge beds in the past week, the statement said.
During that same period, ICU patient numbers have increased by 11 per cent, AHS said.
There are currently 370 ICU beds in Alberta, including 197 surge spaces. ICU capacity, including surge beds, is at 84 per cent, AHS said.
AHS says the Calgary zone has 133 ICU beds, including 67 additional spaces. It is operating at 80 per cent of surge capacity.
In the Edmonton zone, there are 158 ICU beds, including 86 additional spaces. It is operating at 87 per cent of surge capacity.
A letter addressed to the public from the Alberta Medical Association’s intensive care section paints a grim picture should the situation continue to worsen.
“We remain on the verge of a health system collapse in Alberta,” it reads.
Critical care units require a specialized workforce, but despite additional staffing, there are insufficient numbers of these health-care workers to keep up with the increasing ICU patient numbers, the letter says. As a result, the number of patients assigned to each nurse has increased.
The letter warns that, in a worst-case scenario, triage protocols would be activated.
A 52-page critical care triage protocol developed by AHS describes how the health-care system would ration care if ICUs no longer have the resources to care for every critically ill patient.
“We are closer to this reality than we have ever been before,” the letters says.
Alberta will report new COVID-19 case numbers from the weekend on Monday afternoon.
It has now been 11 days since Premier Jason Kenney first introduced a slew of new public health measures, and one week since many went into effect, including the restrictions exemption program, which is Alberta’s version of a vaccine passport system.
As of Friday, there were 20,040 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta and 1,061 people in hospital.