COVID-19 causing ‘strain to the system’ at Red Deer hospital: ER doctor

Click to play video: 'Red Deer Regional Hospital strained by 4th wave of COVID-19'
Red Deer Regional Hospital strained by 4th wave of COVID-19
WATCH ABOVE: Capacity issues at the Red Deer Regional Hospital have been an issue even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Now, a sharp rise in COVID-19 patients is causing even more stress to the system and it's taking a toll on staff. Nicole Stillger reports – Sep 4, 2021

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre (RDRHC) is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases, causing a “strain to the system,” one doctor said Friday.

“[Cases] more than doubled in the last week — our ICU is at capacity and they’re adding more each day,” Dr. John Colebrook, an emergency room physician said.

In the ER, that means longer wait times, and not just for COVID patients.

Read more: Alberta postpones even more surgeries due to overwhelming increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations

It’s also leading to increased time for ambulances to off-load patients and a delay in transferring them between hospitals. On top of that, there are ongoing staffing struggles.

“At this point, people are starting to get more and more tired and it is taking its toll,” Colebrook said.

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“I think the difference this time too is that we are seeing that the vast majority of the people coming in that are sick with COVID are definitely unvaccinated.”

The RDRHC has been dealing with overcrowding issues for years as it’s the only hospital in the region.

“Our hospital is at capacity at the best of times,” Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said.

“Certainly with this resurgence of COVID in Red Deer region that we’re experiencing, it’s of great concern in terms of the local hospital’s capacity.”

Read more: Alberta’s latest COVID-19 measures cause frustration for doctors, restaurant owners

The president of the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) said the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated chronic shortages that already existed at hospitals, especially in rural Alberta.

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“There was a lot of resiliency in the health-care system when this all started, and I think a lot of that is has been waning,” Dr. Paul Boucher said.

“When you have places that are already underserved, this kind of increase in volume of patients that are coming, no doubt in the coming weeks, it’s going to put a lot of extra strain.”

Boucher said hospitals are bracing for what’s coming.

READ MORE: Alberta COVID-19 modelling projects province could see up to 300 ICU admissions this month 

“We have been really concerned about the care deficit that’s grown for the patients of Alberta through the first waves… and now we’re back at it again,” he explained.

According to Colebrook, there won’t be one solution that’s going to put an end to this wave or the pandemic in general, but it starts with strong public health measures.

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“It’s definitely a multi-pronged approach,” he said.

“We need people to get their vaccinations… one is definitely showing not to be enough with this delta variant we need people to get two vaccinations.”

On Friday, Alberta announced an incentive program for people who are not fully vaccinated as well as new, limited restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Read more: Alberta introduces new COVID-19 measures, offers $100 incentive to increase vaccine numbers

Starting Saturday morning, a mask mandate for all indoor public spaces and workplaces will come into effect in Alberta. The government is also encouraging employers to pause any back-to-work plans and is asking those who haven’t been vaccinated to limit their indoor gatherings.

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