‘We will see more hospitalizations’: AHS readies triage protocol amid surging COVID-19 ICU numbers

EDMONTON — Health-care staff will be trained on updated decision guidelines that direct life-saving critical care decisions in the event hospitals are overrun by COVID-19.

The plan is outlined in an Alberta Health Services memo sent to staff and obtained by CTV News. 

According to the memo, the Critical Care Triage Framework will “guide the response should a dire situation occur where the demand for life sustaining critical care support is greater than the available resources.”

“The Framework encompasses specific protocols for both adults and children to guide health care professionals in making the difficult determination of how to allocate resources to critically ill patients when there are not enough critical care resources for everyone.” 

On Tuesday, AHS told CTV News that there was no plan to implement the triage protocol and that it had adequate capacity for hospitalization and ICU patients.

“We are constantly monitoring case numbers and preparing our healthcare system to ensure it can meet demand. This includes adding both ICU and acute care spaces, as well as, if necessary, redeploying staff and reducing services as we did during the first and second waves,” Kerry Williamson with AHS wrote in an email. 

STRAINED ICUs

The number of patients in intensive care units is nearing the highmarks set in late December near the height of the second wave. 

The 145 patients in ICU reported on Tuesday was the 10th-highest to date and the only one in 2021. 

Four of the 10 highest daily increases in the number of ICU patients have been this month. 

In the earlier days of the pandemic it was the elderly who were filling up Alberta hospitals. But now, data shows a combinations of vaccinations and variants is putting younger Albertans in care. 

Age data shows active cases in the 50-59 age range hit a pandemic high earlier this week, the only age range to do so during the third wave. 

Patients in their 50s also represented the largest increase in hospitalizations across age range, growing by 165 over the last three weeks. 

‘WE WILL SEE MORE HOSPITALIZATIONS’

Doctors say they are bracing for the patient counts to continue to rise. 

“It’s impossible to escape the fact that eventually we will see more hospitalizations, and more utilization of our services,” said intensive care physician Dr. Darren Markland. 

“We just wish it wouldn’t happen because it’s preventable.” 

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