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Alberta doctor on rising COVID-19 hospitalizations: ‘We’ll not be able to treat all patients’

Click to play video 'Edmonton doctor concerned with 4th COVID-19 ward opening at U of A Hospital' Edmonton doctor concerned with 4th COVID-19 ward opening at U of A Hospital
Dr. Branko Braam, section chief for nephrology in the Edmonton zone of Alberta Health Services, said the University of Alberta Hospital has opened a fourth COVID-19 ward and health-care staff who have never worked in that type of unit are having to step in to help treat patients. – Dec 21, 2020

A physician at the University of Alberta Hospital is sounding the alarm about the impact the rising number of COVID-19 hospitalizations is having on the health-care system.

Read more: Alberta to send adults to Edmonton’s Stollery Children’s ICU as COVID-19 hospitalizations surge

Nephrologist Dr. Branko Braam says the situation has become so dire, his hospital has had to open a COVID-19 ward and health-care staff who have never worked in that type of unit are having to step in and help treat patients.

“The situation is now so bad that they’re going to open the fourth COVID ward in the hospital.

“That means, essentially, that the kidney disease people are going to cover a ward where we never have worked to be able to have sufficient people power to care for the patients that are ill.

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“And, it disrupts the rest of the work. We need to take care of all of our other patients still.”

Click to play video 'Alberta to send adults to Edmonton’s Stollery Children’s ICU as COVID-19 hospitalizations surge' Alberta to send adults to Edmonton’s Stollery Children’s ICU as COVID-19 hospitalizations surge
Alberta to send adults to Edmonton’s Stollery Children’s ICU as COVID-19 hospitalizations surge – Dec 19, 2020

Braam learned of the new ward and staffing challenges after a team meeting on Dec. 8, he said in a video posted to Twitter Monday by Alberta Health Services.

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READ MORE: Alberta health minister says field hospital at Edmonton’s Butterdome to be used as a last resort 

“Then, with the numbers that are going up and up and up, the hospital will be actually extremely busy with many, many sick people,” he said.

“I’m straight out very worried about this. If this keeps going, we’ll not be able to actually treat all the patients and we get to situations that people have seen on television earlier this year.

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“It’s now very close that we get to the same point also,” Braam said.

“It’s very frightening. Stay home. Stay away from each other. There’s a vaccine in a few months. There’s a horizon to this problem, so just sit it out.”

Read more: Alberta records 1,286 COVID-19 cases, 10 deaths Sunday

As of Monday, there were 795 people in hospital with COVID-19, with 151 in intensive care.

Alberta added an additional 1,240 cases of COVID-19 on Monday, and announced nine deaths connected to the disease.

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In terms of ICU capacity, the Edmonton zone now has a total of 137 beds after 65 more were added since early November, AHS said.

As of Monday, ICU capacity in Edmonton — including the surge beds — was 85 per cent.

The Calgary zone has a total of 96 ICU beds after 30 were added.

As of Monday, ICU capacity in Calgary — including the surge beds — was 83 per cent.

There were seven people in ICU at Chinook Regional Hospital, including one who has tested positive for COVID-19. There is a total of 14 ICU beds at CRH.

As of Monday, there were two people in ICU at Medicine Hat Regional Hospital, including one who has tested positive for COVID-19. There is a total of 10 ICU beds at MHRH.

Read more: A glimpse inside an Edmonton ICU full of COVID-19 patients

“Acute care capacity in both Calgary and Edmonton zones was averaging between 95 per cent and slightly above 100 per cent for much of last week,” AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson said.

At the Stollery Children’s Hospital, work is underway to prepare that unit for critical adult patients.

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“No adult patients have been moved into that area as of yet,” Williamson said Monday.

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