Alberta Health Services tweeted Sunday that it is transferring “up to nine patients” out of Grande Prairie’s Queen Elizabeth II Hospital to neighbouring health-care centres because too many COVID-19 patients need acute care and ICU spaces.
AHS confirmed Monday that it transferred seven patients.
“When it is safe and appropriate to do so, AHS will work to transfer these patients back to the QEII,” AHS tweeted.
“Acute care patients at the QEII continue to receive the care they need.”
The emergency department is still open, but non-urgent cases might be referred to other communities.
AHS said the hospital remains a safe place to receive care, insisting any patient with COVID-19 symptoms will be isolated and treated.
Grande Prairie Mayor Jackie Clayton said Monday: “Yesterday’s announcement is absolutely concerning for the city of Grande Prairie and city council.”
Dr. Braden Manns, associate chief medical officer of AHS, said: “We’re still very tight on critical care beds across the province.”
“I think you can expect to hear about more service disruptions, and we’ll probably have updates on that in the next 24-48 hours,” he said, adding that these disruptions are happening earlier this wave than previous ones, in part due to staffing problems.
Nurses say that’s not a surprise.
“What I’m hearing and seeing is nurses and doctors from right across the province begging for help, saying they’re burnt out, they’re overworked,” said Danielle Larivee with the United Nurses of Alberta.
To help hospitals, Manns advised people to “start wearing masks again indoors when physical distancing is not possible.”
“I would ask people if you’re sick, stay home. We can’t have any more virus transmitting,” he said.
AHS said it is thankful for support during this time, adding that “patient safety is of utmost importance to us, and we only make these decisions when absolutely necessary.”
Not the first time
This isn’t the first time the pandemic has affected operations at the hospital. The province said in April and May, about 600 scheduled surgeries were postponed at the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital due to high pandemic case numbers.
In July, the province said surgeries were being rescheduled with plans to eliminate the surgical backlog in the region in the next year — however, postponements were announced last week.
AHS said starting Aug. 30, about 45 “elective surgical procedures per week” would be postponed in Grande Prairie to free up more acute and ICU capacity and create a dedicated unit for COVID-19 patients.
“All backlogged surgeries in Wave 1 have been rebooked, and 96 per cent of all delayed surgeries from Wave 1, 2 and 3 have been completed,” the health authority said.
As of Sunday, both the county and city of Grande Prairie were in the top 11 areas of the province for the highest active case rates.
There were 427 active cases in the city with another 185 in the county, according to Alberta Health data.
In the city, 59.5 per cent of eligible people 12 and older have been immunized with at least one vaccine dose. In the county, that number is 58.5 per cent.
A new hospital in the northwestern Alberta city has been in the works for more than a decade.
Construction on the $647.5-million Grande Prairie Regional Hospital began in 2014, but the project fell behind and came in over budget. The $850.3-million facility is now slated to open by the end of this year.
– With files from Breanna Karstens-Smith, Fletcher Kent and Karen Bartko, Global News