Overburdened Red Deer hospital compelled to airlift COVID-19 sufferers to Calgary, Edmonton

Critically in poor health sufferers are being airlifted out of Red Deer Regional Hospital as docs and nurses from its numerous departments are recruited to take care of sufferers on ventilators because of spiking COVID-19 cases in central Alberta.

COVID hospitalizations in Red Deer have jumped 62 per cent (from 83 to 134) and ICU admissions are up 31 per cent (from 16 to 21) within the week from Sept. 7 to Sept. 14.

“Nothing like this has happened before. We’re on the precipice of not being able to provide appropriate care to people,” mentioned Dr. Mike Weldon, an emergency room doctor on the central Alberta hospital, which had been battling mattress shortages for years previous to the pandemic.

“Over the weekend, sick patients that needed ventilators that normally would have stayed here are being shipped out to Calgary because we don’t have any room left.”

According to Alberta Health Services (AHS), 24 sufferers have been despatched from the central zone to Calgary and Edmonton due to COVID capability points since Sept. 1.  

CBC News requested AHS for a response to the state of affairs within the facility, and while it did present knowledge, it has not but offered a remark.

“The world is falling apart around these people. First they’re told you have COVID … and then you’re told you have COVID but you’re really, really sick — you need intensive care. And then you’re told you’re … going to be transferred to Edmonton or Calgary,” mentioned inner medication specialist Dr. Kym Jim.

“You see people on phones. You see people calling family. You see people trying to gather people from afar. The stress on everyone is palpable.”

Critically in poor health sufferers are being airlifted out of Red Deer Regional Hospital as COVID-19 cases spike and beds run quick. (Red Deer Regional Health Foundation)

And it’s unclear how lengthy other hospitals will have capability to simply accept Red Deer’s critically in poor health sufferers.

“What is going to happen when a person comes to Red Deer and Edmonton or Calgary tells us we no longer can take your patient? Where is that patient going to go?” mentioned Jim.

Twelve further “surge” beds have already been added to the intensive care unit in Red Deer, doubling its measurement. 

As of Tuesday afternoon the unit was caring for 21 COVID sufferers.

Patients are being double bunked within the ICU, the coronary care unit is getting used as overflow, and nurses from other departments — together with labour and supply — are actually treating intensive care sufferers.

“Would you or your loved one accept care in an ICU that was staffed by labour and delivery nurses with minimal training on looking after this level of acuity? That is triage. That is rationing care,” mentioned Weldon.

“Just because we’re not shipping people out of province doesn’t mean that we’re not severely strained because of our capacity. In terms of the critical care that’s provided, it’s degraded.”

‘It’s scary’

The ICU is so stretched, in keeping with Weldon, employees within the emergency room are getting ready to take care of critically in poor health sufferers on ventilators, when there may be nowhere else to place them.

“We’re worried … that we’re going to get ventilated patients in our department because that’s the only other place that they can go,” he mentioned.

“It’s frightening, right? I literally came from the other room … and our nurses are reviewing their training on how to work a ventilator. Like that’s where we’re at here.”

Red Deer intensive care specialist Dr. Adam Hall mentioned employees are working to the purpose of exhaustion to take care of the ever-growing variety of very sick and dying sufferers.

“We’ve hit the limit for what we can safely manage,” mentioned Hall. “I worry that as that system gets strained, the outcomes for patients are going to be worse.”

According to Hall, sufferers are being saved on the common wards longer than standard as a result of there isn’t any room within the ICU.

“Patients are coming in probably a little later than they would otherwise. We’re trying to keep them on the floor as long as we possibly can. And once they don’t require any ICU , they’re going out very early, even if they are still quite ill.”

AHS mentioned sufferers should not at the moment being airlifted out of the province. 

But Weldon mentioned out-of-province transfers are possible imminent. And he believes the AHS essential triage protocol — designed to assist docs make selections about who will get life-saving care when there aren’t sufficient ventilators and ICU beds for everybody who wants them — will possible be invoked quickly as nicely.

“It’s almost inevitable given the trajectory of cases and the delay we know between the number of diagnosed cases and the severe outcomes when they start showing up on our doorstep,” Weldon mentioned.

“We have a choice as a province … and we’ve had nothing but absent leadership and, I would argue, mishandling of the entire situation.”

Alberta reported 1,434 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, out of 11,880 assessments. 

Provincewide, there are 822 people being handled in hospital, 212 of whom have been in intensive care beds. Of these not in ICU, 74.1 per cent have been unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, as of Friday. Of these in ICU, 91.2 per cent have been unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.

There are 18,265 lively cases throughout Alberta, the best rely within the nation.

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