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Alberta Children’s Hospital to temporarily close 75% of operating rooms by Monday

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The Alberta Children’s Hospital is set to temporarily shutter 75 per cent of its operating rooms in response to rapidly rising COVID-19 cases, according to Alberta Health Services.

AHS confirmed to Global News that the Calgary hospital is reducing all activity as part of a “level four pandemic response,” it’s highest alert level.

“This equates to about 75 per cent of all surgeries, including pediatric,” an AHS spokesperson said in a statement. “Urgent, emergent and prioritized surgeries (including cancer surgeries) will continue.”

According to AHS, the closure of the operating rooms at the Alberta Children’s Hospital is in an effort to redeploy physicians and staff to the adult care sites.

The decision comes as Alberta announced 2,020 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday with 911 people in hospital with the virus and 215 in intensive care.

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Nicole Banman, whose son Brodie was set to receive an operation to repair a cleft palate in mid-October, learned of the postponed procedure on Friday.

“Getting super close to surgery to getting his palate repaired, (so he could) start eating normally, drinking normally for a child his age, (we) should be getting excited,” Banman told Global News.

Her son Brodie is 14 months old and has spent much of his young life in hospital due to a rare complication called hypoplastic left heart syndrome immediately following his birth.

Banman said her son currently uses a feeding tube as they await any word on when the procedure will be rescheduled.

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“My heart goes out to all the parents that are affected due to this pandemic,” Banman said. “It just makes me want to scream and yell. We’re so close to getting my son’s palate repaired, to get him speaking properly and being a somewhat normal child.”

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Banman said Brodie’s procedure has been prioritized as an emergency surgery once those procedures ramp back up following the elevated COVID-19 response.

Read more: What happens when COVID-19 patients take up all surgery, ICU capacity in Alberta?

The operation room shutdown is also concerning for local pediatric physicians like Dr. Roxanne Goldade.

Goldade is a former section chief at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, and said she has never seen a situation like these temporary closures in her career.

“We have never ever been this bad,” Goldade said.

“We’re all pretty nimble about being able to close things down, but we never ever got this close to where we’re at now. This is scary. I’m scared.”

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According to Goldade, a trickle down effect from the closures has already begun for local community physicians and parents alike.

She said one of her patients will now have to wait even longer for treatment and diagnosis.

“A 15-year-old boy who was found to have a lesion a mass on his kidney, and know what that’s going to mean.

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“It says in the note: ‘This child needs a renal biopsy ASAP’,” Goldade said.

“I do fear he’s not going to be one of those kids that gets that 25 per cent of our time. So you can just imagine what’s going through that boy’s brain and his parents’.”

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Goldade said she fears the next issue will be a mental health crisis directly related to the pandemic for both patients and medical staff.

“Our children are taking the brunt of all this,” she said. “We are going to have a severely profound chronic mental health crisis that’s coming down the pipe.”

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