COVID-19: Shandro, Hinshaw, Yiu to announce plan to ‘reduce pressure on hospitals’ Thursday

Click to play video: '‘Pandemic of the unvaccinated’ surging across Alberta, straining the health-care system: Shandro' ‘Pandemic of the unvaccinated’ surging across Alberta, straining the health-care system: Shandro

WATCH (Sept. 3): Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Alberta made COVID-19 decisions this past summer based on data from the U.K. and elsewhere, noting the Delta variant was trending downward at that time — but in the weeks since has made a comeback and is now surging through the unvaccinated population, putting a strain on hospitals across the province. He shared how hospitalization and ICU numbers have surged in recent weeks.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw will speak Thursday afternoon about the COVID-19 situation in Alberta.

Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO of Alberta Health Services, will also be at the news conference.

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

A news release from the province says they will “announce steps to help reduce pressure on hospitals.”

The news conference is set for 3:30 p.m. Global News will live stream the event in this article post.

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The last time provincial officials spoke to Albertans about COVID-19 was last Friday, when the $100 vaccine incentive was announced, along with the indoor mask mandate and 10 p.m. liquor curfew.

Click to play video: 'Alberta announces $100 gift cards for residents who get their COVID-19 vaccine' Alberta announces $100 gift cards for residents who get their COVID-19 vaccine

Alberta announces $100 gift cards for residents who get their COVID-19 vaccine

On Wednesday evening, AHS said it was postponing “all scheduled elective surgeries and many outpatient procedures for the remainder of this week” at Calgary hospitals.

In a series of tweets, AHS said the “difficult decision” was made “to best support adult critical care during this fourth wave of COVID-19 pressures.”

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“This move will allow AHS to deploy qualified staff to support intensive care and critical care beds within the zone.”

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said, as of Wednesday, there were 647 people in hospital due to COVID-19, 147 of whom are being treated in ICU.

Read more: All scheduled elective surgeries, many outpatient procedures in Calgary suspended: AHS

Of the 147 patients currently in ICU, 89 per cent are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, AHS said.

“We strongly urge all eligible Albertans to get immunized as quickly as possible, which is your best defence against a severe outcome from COVID-19.”

In a series of messages on Twitter Wednesday, Hinshaw said 18 new deaths related to COVID-19 were reported to Alberta Health in the last 24 hours.

Click to play video: 'ICU doctor voices frustration with rising Alberta COVID-19 cases' ICU doctor voices frustration with rising Alberta COVID-19 cases

ICU doctor voices frustration with rising Alberta COVID-19 cases

AHS’ baseline number of ICU beds is 173. Since Sept. 1, it’s added 53 additional ICU spaces, bringing the total added ICU spaces to 85. There are currently 258 ICU beds open in Alberta.

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“Provincially, ICU capacity (including additional surge beds) is currently at 87 per cent (the average over the past seven days is 91 per cent),” AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson said Wednesday.

However, Dr. Neeja Bakshi, a physician at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton, said the biggest issue isn’t beds; it’s staff for those beds.

“When we talk about how we’re overwhelmed and overcapacity, it’s because the human resources piece of it is not something we can scale up easily.

“Right now, we’re not even operating at the baseline human resources capacity we need… due to burnout… due to people being redeployed elsewhere,” Bakshi said.

Read more: Days into Alberta’s $100 COVID-19 vaccine incentive, experts say initiative is futile, insignificant

The effect ripples down to all aspects of the health system, said Parks.

“When the (emergency) departments get difficult like that, when we can’t see people in a timely manner, then you have to start talking about disaster planning type thing, where you have to end up cancelling elective surgeries so you can increase capacity or you have to cancel endoscopy or cancer care and even sometimes pediatric care because the nurses in pediatric care have to be repurposed to go take care of COVID patients.”

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Read more: UNA receives confirmation Alberta hiring contract nurses to address staffing shortage

Parks said capacity isn’t just about space or beds.

“In order to go from our current ICU capacity — say of 173 beds being our baseline, all of our ICU beds in the province without surging and going overcapacity — in order to bump that up so that we’re at the 205, 210, whatever we’re at now, we have to repurpose nurses and staff and RTs and pull them from other areas and pull them into critical care where they may not be as comfortable.”

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