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'We need to bend that curve': Alberta could transfer ICU patients to Ontario as hospitalizations near 900


Alberta is considering transferring ICU patients to other provinces as the fourth wave puts its health-care system under "extreme pressure."

Ontario has accepted to take on Alberta patients if needed, and Alberta Health Services is also in conversations with British Columbia and Manitoba, president and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu told reporters on Thursday. However, in a statement to CTV News, B.C. told Alberta it will not be able to help them "given the current demands" on its own health-care system right now.

Dr. Yiu stressed AHS hopes it does not get to that point, but added: "We do not have the ability to simply open more and more ICU spaces and hospital beds and we do not have an endless number of staff who can provide critical care."

Alberta currently has 310 ICU beds, a total that includes 137 surge beds, Dr. Yiu said. Eighty-six per cent of beds are occupied — largely by COVID-19 patients.

In addition to the possibility of out-of-province help, AHS says its field hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary are ready.

And the triage protocol is, too.

"We've started the educational process, so this week was sharing with our staff what it is and setting the infrastructure in place so if we had to use — again this would be an absolute, absolute last resort — that staff are ready, trained and prepared," Dr. Yiu said.

She begged unvaccinated Albertans to get immunized to protect themselves and others, and alleviate the stress on hospitals.

"If the numbers keep increasing, right now we're seeing on average about 18 to 20 new COVID ICU admissions every single day throughout the province, and we need to bend that curve. We need to bend that trend, and the best thing we can do is to [get vaccinated]. So I just can't say enough how important it is for Albertans to go out and get vaccinated."


Alberta reported 1,718 new COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths on Thursday.

The province now has 18,706 active cases, 896 hospitalizations and 222 ICU admissions.

Alberta's pandemic death toll exceeded 2,500 on Thursday.

Close to 78 per cent of hospital cases are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.

Of eligible Albertans, 79.6 per cent have one vaccine dose and 71.5 per cent have both.

Hinshaw, who gave regular media briefings for most of the pandemic before Alberta loosened its restrictions on July 1, said she would begin to give updates twice a week again.

"Given the crisis that our province is facing and the state of public health emergency that was issued yesterday, I will keep Albertans informed and will be here regularly to answer questions to the best of my ability."