Hospital admissions, active COVID-19 cases on the rise again in Alberta

Article content

Alberta health officials say surgical capacity may need to be shifted to accommodate the rising hospital admissions caused by the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

Advertisement

Article content

On Tuesday, 708 Albertans were hospitalized with COVID-19, 80 of them in intensive care. Those numbers jumped from 635 to 72 on Monday. A week ago, 436 people received hospital care.

The increase comes as the Omicron variant has pushed COVID-19 cases in the province to new heights, with 58,613 active cases reported on Tuesday. New cases and positivity rates, leading indicators of serious outcomes, have increased significantly since the highly contagious variety became the dominant strain in the province.

Alberta Health Services spokesman Kerry Williamson said on Tuesday the health authority is “extremely concerned” about the recent spike in patients.

“AHS is constantly monitoring and planning for all eventualities to ensure we can continue to care for patients and keep Albertans safe,” Williamson said in an email. “During the previous four waves, AHS has been able to increase both hospital and ICU capacity to meet demand. There are plans to increase acute care capacity, with appropriate human resources and resources, should the need arise. The current projected need can be met.”

Advertisement

Article content

Cases and hospitalizations began to decline in late 2021 after a Delta variant-powered fourth wave put extreme pressure on Alberta’s health care system. During that fourth wave, all non-emergency operations were canceled and IC capacity was nearly doubled, creating overflow areas where possible.

Williamson said there are 241 general adult ICU beds open in Alberta, including 68 span spaces. He said the provincial ICU capacity is 80 percent, but without the extra capacity it would be 112%.

As the county clears a backlog of canceled and delayed surgeries from previous waves, Williamson said AHS is performing more than 95 percent of normal volumes and cancer operations more than 100 percent.

Advertisement

Article content

“The total waiting list is stable. It’s about 80,500 this week, compared to 81,600 at the beginning of December,” Williamson said. “We are doing everything we can to return to normal surgical volume. However, that plan may need to be changed if Omicron forces us to increase IC capacity.”

AHS modeling leaked online last week showed that the number of cases was expected to increase in the coming weeks. Even the most conservative forecast suggests the province could have 968 COVID-19 patients hospitalized within 14 days. The modeling showed no ICU projections.

Other Canadian jurisdictions have also seen an increase in hospitalization rates of late. On Tuesday, Ontario reported that more than 3,000 people were hospitalized with COVID-19. Ontario has about three times the population of Alberta.

Advertisement

Article content

Alberta reported 4,704 new cases from 12,201 tests on Tuesday, about a 38 percent positivity rate. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced that only high-risk Albertans could get a PCR test to combat long wait times to get the test, as well as extended wait times to receive results.

She said the true number of cases in the province could be 10 times the number reported as Albertans are encouraged to use rapid at-home antigen testing.

However, on Tuesday evening, Hinshaw tweeted that Alberta Health has learned that the expected delivery of rapid test kits from the Canadian government and manufacturers is being delayed. She said the department is working to get more kits out as soon as possible.

Eight more deaths were reported Tuesday.

dshort@postmedia.com

Advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively yet civilized discussion forum and encourages all readers to share their thoughts on our articles. It can take up to an hour for comments to be moderated before appearing on the site. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We’ve enabled email notifications – you’ll now receive an email when you get a reply to your comment, there’s an update to a comment thread you’re following, or a user follows comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details about customizing your email settings.

Leave a Comment