RED DEER -- As of Friday morning, there are four units at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre (RDRHC) experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks with two additional units that are under COVID-19 watch.

On Tuesday, there were 37 COVID-19 positive patients at the hospital, including 15 individuals who are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). AHS says the demand for ICU beds is high.

“There continues to be high demand for specialized intensive care, with a number of high acuity patients who do not have COVID-19.”

RDRHC has the only ICU beds in the Central Zone. It has 12 ICU beds and another six for the Coronary Care Unit totalling 18 beds that can support critically ill patients who require a ventilator.

According to Dr. Keith Wolstenholme, an orthopedic surgeon at RDRHC, the ICU at the hopsital is running at 200 per cent capacity.

“Instead of just having one patient per room, or per ICU nurse, now you’re looking at two patients in some of the rooms,” said Wolstenholme.

“That’s not how the ICU is designed to run, that’s not the best way, but you have no resources and patients who need those resources, so you do the best you can do.”

Wolstenholme added that COVID-19 patients in the ICU need more time to recover.

“Normal ICU patients will normally turn a corner and can be discharged in a few days, but for COVID-19 patients they’re often ventilated for two or three weeks, so there’s not a fast turn over,” said Wolstenholme.

“If you only have 12 beds and people need to be ventilated for three weeks, it just doesn’t take very many cases at all before all of a sudden you’re out of room, you’re out of ventilators.”

Surgeries are also being cancelled due to spaces not being available for surgical patients who need care post-surgery.

“If you have no one to look after those people, unfortunately, the first thing that gets cut is scheduled surgeries,” said Wolstenholme.

“It’s not because we don’t want to look after those people, we just don’t have the resources right now.”

The hospital is also experiencing difficulties in admitting patients from the emergency department. Due to a shortage of beds, many of the patients admitted to the hospital stay in the emergency department.

“The admissions to hospital, largely because of COVID-19, have blocked up all the hospital beds, and then patients who are admitted to hospital end up sitting in our department,” said Dr. Mark Weldon, a RDRHC emergency physician.

“Two days ago, we had almost three quarters of our beds occupied by admitted patients, so that makes it very difficult, as you can imagine, to do our jobs in emergency because we have no beds to look after people.”

Weldon said, in the past couple of week, he’s had to see many emergency department patients in the waiting room.

“We see them in the waiting room. We see them in the ambulance bay. We see them in the hallway in order to keep things moving.”

The hospital is utilizing spaces within the Medical Speciality Clinics to temporary care for emergency department patients awaiting admission.