Up to 70 percent of all scheduled surgeries and procedures in the Edmonton health zone will be immediately postponed as Alberta Health Services works to free up space and front-line staff to care for patients with COVID-19.
All-day surgeries will be postponed and only “priority cancer, urgent and emergent surgeries” will go ahead, AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson told CBC News on Monday.
The change comes as Alberta’s fourth wave of COVID-19 pushes Alberta hospitals to the breaking point.
“This situation continues to be very serious,” Ms. Williamson said in a statement.
By postponing day surgeries and procedures, AHS hopes to have “sufficient ICU and inpatient capacity to manage the increased COVID activity across the zone and the province.”
Patients who are affected will be contacted and their procedures will be rescheduled as soon as possible, AHS said.
“These surgical reductions free up space for patients who require inpatient and critical care supports and allow the redeployment of frontline staff to areas of greatest need.”
An internal AHS memo obtained by CBC News outlines the new surgical capacity guidelines. It includes details about how surge-capacity planning for the pandemic could affect triage.
The memo says the next reduction in service will be to limit surgery to “life and limb” procedures.
Based on an early warning system, the next reduction in surgical capacity could come by Sept. 17, the memo cautions.
On its website, AHS says its data-based early warning system is used to anticipate upcoming needs for inpatient and critical care beds. The system anticipates needs two weeks into the future.
On Sept. 3 — as intensive care wards began filling with COVID-19 patients — AHS postponed up to 50 percent of scheduled surgeries and procedures in the Edmonton zone. Surgeries have also been postponed in the Calgary health zone, and across northern and central Alberta.
To date, the Edmonton zone has opened an additional 54 ICU surge beds in addition to the 72 ICU-funded beds for a total of 126 critical care beds, AHS said in the statement.
As of midday Sunday, 111 of the 126 ICU beds were filled, AHS said.
“We are able to staff these beds and respond to critical care needs for the Edmonton zone as well as support the North and Central zones, who have less ability to create additional critical care capacity.
“We do not make these decisions lightly, and we acknowledge that postponing surgeries has a significant impact on patients, their families, and their loved ones.”
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