Alberta preparing to add 2,250 extra hospital beds, AHS official says

Alberta may need to add an extra 2,250 hospital beds over the next few weeks to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak, on top of the 8,500 currently available, an AHS official says.

“Alberta Health Services staff and physicians have been working feverishly for a number of weeks now to plan for the space that we’re going to need to care for Albertans,” Dr. Mark Joffe, vice-president and medical director for northern Alberta at Alberta Health Services, said Thursday at a news conference.

The province reported 67 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total in the province to 486.

Thirty-four of the cases are thought to have been transmitted within the province, an increase of one since the day before, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health said at a news conference.

As the total number of cases across the world topped 520,000, Hinshaw made reference to other countries (Spain, 56,000 cases) and Italy (80,000 cases) where the coronavirus has crippled health-care systems and killed more than 12,000 people.

“We are doing every possible to limit that from happening in Alberta,” Hinshaw said.

“Three weeks ago, I said that COVID-19 would test our health system. To date our health system has responded remarkably to that test.”

Since the beginning of March, Albertans have been anxiously watching numbers that rose slowly at first, then more rapidly.

The province reported its first case of COVID-19 exactly three weeks ago, on March 5.

A week later, on March 12, the total reached 23 cases.

Another week passed, and the total hit 146.

In the six days since then, the number of cases of COVID-19 has climbed to 419.

Hinshaw has become a daily presence in the lives of thousands of Albertans, her news conferences livestreamed across the province as she gives updates about the spread of coronavirus and outlines the latest measures taken to try to slow that spread.

Two people in Alberta have died from COVID-19. Twenty-one people are now in hospital with the illness, including eight in intensive-care units. The province has seen outbreaks in nursing homes and at a group home for people with developmental disabilities.