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Alberta looks to other provinces for help as health-care system buckles under record-high ICU admissions


Alberta currently has more ICU admissions than it has ever had, pandemic or not, as COVID-19 cases spike in the fourth wave.

Alberta Health Services president and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu said there were 270 people in ICUs across the province on Tuesday — 88 per cent of the system’s capacity.

There are typically 173 staffed ICU beds in Alberta, but the province has added an additional 132 beds during the fourth wave. Without the surge beds, Dr. Yiu says the province would be at 156 per cent of ICU capacity.

“That is the highest number of ICU patients that we have ever seen at any time during the pandemic or ever in our provincialized health-care system,” she said at a Wednesday night press conference where Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced a proof of vaccination program and several province-wide restrictions.

AHS has reached out to other provinces to ask if there are available beds or staff to treat its sick COVID-19 patients, Dr. Yiu said.

“We are doing this because the number of patients needing ICU is rising rapidly and we need to be prepared,” she said.

AHS has also been training clinical staff on triage protocol, but Dr. Yiu says that protocol is a last resort and has not been implemented yet.

“We will continue to do all that we can to add capacity, and we will continue to do this until we’ve exhausted every single option.”

Dr. Yiu reiterated the message of many health-care professionals during the pandemic.

“To any Alberta who has not yet been immunized and may be hesitant, I urge you to reconsider.”

Alberta reported 1,609 new COVID-19 cases, 24 deaths and 877 hospitalizations on Wednesday.

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