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Patients diverted to other hospitals as Calgary’s Foothills COVID-19 outbreaks continue to grow

Click to play video 'COVID-19: Some Foothills hospital cardiac patients being diverted to Edmonton' COVID-19: Some Foothills hospital cardiac patients being diverted to Edmonton
WATCH: With nearly 300 health-care workers in isolation due to COVID-19 outbreaks at Calgary's Foothills hospital, some cardiac patients are being diverted to Edmonton due to staffing restraints. Lauren Pullen reports – Sep 30, 2020

Editor’s note: Alberta Health Services originally said that 39 surgeries were postponed on Monday, Sept. 28. On Thursday, Oct. 1, the health authority said it was actually 36. This story has been updated to reflect the correction. 

Some cardiac patients are being diverted to hospitals in Edmonton for catheterization procedures as officials continue to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary.

As of Tuesday, 290 health-care workers were quarantined and monitoring for symptoms of the novel coronavirus in relation to the outbreak. Alberta Health Services said it would update the number of staff isolating twice weekly.

Read more: 2 visitors to Foothills hospital confirmed to have COVID-19 linked to outbreaks

In an emailed statement, AHS said the Foothills cardiac catheterization labs have had “some temporary service disruptions due to staffing restraints from the COVID-19 outbreak,” but the “majority” of the procedures are moving ahead.

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Some new patients are being sent to either the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute at the University of Alberta Hospital and the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton for their procedures, AHS said.

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AHS also said some procedures currently scheduled are being rescheduled, depending on staffing levels, most of which will be done in Calgary. Any urgent or critical procedures will still be done at Foothills.

The health authority didn’t say how many procedures had been deferred or rescheduled.

Click to play video 'Calgary’s Foothills hospital limits visitors, postpones surgeries due to COVID-19 outbreaks' Calgary’s Foothills hospital limits visitors, postpones surgeries due to COVID-19 outbreaks
Calgary’s Foothills hospital limits visitors, postpones surgeries due to COVID-19 outbreaks – Sep 28, 2020

Dr. Stephanie Smith, director of infection prevention and control at the University of Alberta Hospital, said the outbreak and strain on staffing levels is “concerning.”

“Is this something we can overcome? I think yes, but it’s going to need a concerted effort from all of AHS to really pull together to get through this,” she said.

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“There are certain services only provided at that hospital and potentially one other hospital in Edmonton, so it does put extra stress on the whole system​.”

On Wednesday, AHS said 33 patients have been diagnosed with COVID-19 after being exposed as a result of the outbreaks — up from 31 on Tuesday. Four patients have died.

Another staff member was also confirmed to have the virus as of Wednesday, for a total of 28.

Read more: Surgeries postponed, visitors restricted as COVID-19 outbreak grows at Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre

One more unit, which was previously on outbreak watch, has declared an outbreak, AHS said. Two other units remain on outbreak watch.

There were no more surgery postponements on Wednesday. Nearly 50 surgeries scheduled for this past Monday and Tuesday had been rescheduled due to staffing and inpatient restrictions.

The cause of the outbreaks, which so far have not been linked, is still under investigation, AHS said.