Quebec is not capable of receiving additional intensive care patients from other parts of the country as Alberta faces a COVID-19 surge pushing its health system to the limit, a spokesperson for the province’s premier said Friday.
“As we have clearly demonstrated in recent days, the health network is under pressure and our hospital capacity is very limited,” Ewan Sauves, a spokesperson for Quebec Premier François Legault, said in an email to Global News.
“The network is not currently equipped to take care of patients from other provinces.”
The response comes as the head of Alberta Health Services confirmed Thursday it is in talks and has received offers of aid from other parts of Canada, including Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador.
With the intensive care system operating at 155 per cent over capacity, Dr. Verna Yiu said she also had plans to reach out to Quebec to see if the province could help. Alberta health authorities are converting as many beds and spaces for intensive care as possible, including operating rooms.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney declared a state of public health emergency on Wednesday, and introduced a wide range of measures amid a growing number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. In July, his government lifted many restrictions aimed at clamping down on the pandemic before bringing some back.
The province is at risk of running out of medical staff and ICU beds in a little more than a week, according to Kenney. He said that the health network may not be able to provide adequate care to everyone who gets sick unless transmission of the virus is curbed.
Alberta Health Services has also begun briefing staff on how the triage protocol would work if necessary as an “absolute, absolute last resort,” according to Yiu. Under triage protocol, doctors will have to ration life-saving equipment and resources.
As the country deals with a fourth wave of the pandemic, Quebec isn’t the only province that is unable to take on patients from Alberta. British Columbia also said Thursday it doesn’t have the hospital capacity to do so.
Manitoba, meanwhile, said Friday it hasn’t been approached but that doesn’t mean it won’t step up to help its neighbours if needed.
Earlier this week, Quebec announced it is looking at solutions to curb its nursing shortage as hospitalizations continue to increase. The government estimates it is lacking about 4,000 nurses in the public health system.
Quebec saw its pandemic-related hospitalizations rise by three Friday, for a total of 262. There were 95 patients listed in intensive care, a rise of eight. Health Minister Christian Dubé said all the newly admitted ICU patients are unvaccinated.
—with files from Global News’ Raquel Fletcher, Phil Heidenreich, Simon Little and The Canadian Press