Lives hang in the balance as strained ICUs filled with COVID-19 patients stall surgeries and patient care

Click to play video: 'The trickle-down effect: Alberta ICU physician worries about ‘deserving patients’ not getting care' The trickle-down effect: Alberta ICU physician worries about ‘deserving patients’ not getting care
WATCH: Alberta has hit a new record in the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs. It means many patients anxiously waiting for life altering surgeries are having to wait even longer. As Jayme Doll reports, it's impacting families across the province and people of all ages. – Sep 23, 2021

Calgary city councillor and mayoral candidate Jeff Davison and his wife are among many being hit by the impacts of an overwhelmed healthcare system.

Their six year-old daughter has a rare medical condition and will need multiple surgeries. But everything has been put on hold as the province deals with a difficult and deadly fourth wave of COVID-19.

Read more: ‘100 per cent’ of Alberta’s new COVID-19 ICU admissions have no vaccine protection: Hinshaw

“The evaluation was coming up, but that evaluation has now been pushed to February and so we are sitting at a point where we have no idea when the surgery will take place. We have no idea if the evaluation will get pushed, and the question we keep asking is, how long are we supposed to wait?” said Davison.

On Thursday, Alberta marked its highest day yet for the number of patients in intensive care units since the pandemic first began.

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Click to play video: 'Alberta’s overwhelmed hospitals alter care amid COVID-19 crisis' Alberta’s overwhelmed hospitals alter care amid COVID-19 crisis
Alberta’s overwhelmed hospitals alter care amid COVID-19 crisis – Sep 23, 2021

ICU physician Dr. Darren Markland has been on the frontlines of the pandemic and said his worries are not so much for those in the ICU beds, but the ones who are not even getting the care they need.

“We are triaging our cancer patients right now by denying them access to rapid care and we are doing that at the expense of people who undeservingly have this. That’s what I’m really worrying about. People who don’t deserve this aren’t getting it because of people who had a choice.  That’s what I think, what I’m really challenged to deal with right now,” said Markland.

On Thursday, the province announced 226 patients people were in the ICU and 100 percent of new admissions were Albertans who didn’t have any vaccine protection.

Read more: Ottawa offers military aid as Alberta battles brutal COVID-19 surge

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Surgeries have been cancelled across the province, including at Alberta Children’s Hospital, and it’s having devastating impacts on patients.

“Having your surgery delayed can be extremely traumatizing, particularly if you’ve been waiting a long time and especially if your surgery is potentially life changing,” said Doctor Verna Yiu, President and CEO of Alberta Health Services.

“Delaying surgeries is not something that we ever want to do, when, unfortunately, right now it’s necessary to reduce pressure on our ICU,” said Yiu.

The Davisons said they can deal with the postponement now, but are worried about what they would do in the event of an emergency. And they also said some Albertans just don’t have that kind of time.

“We’ve had friends die because they have cancer and haven’t been able to see somebody,” said Davison  “We are putting lives on pause because the health system is overwhelmed here in Alberta.”

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