Alberta’s COVID-19 surge spurs delays for up to 30% of non-urgent surgeries in Edmonton zone

As COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations continue to surge in Alberta amid the pandemic’s fourth wave, the province’s health authority says the strain put on the health system will affect non-urgent surgeries.

In a news release issued Friday, Alberta Health Services said up to 30 per cent of non-urgent surgeries and procedures in the Edmonton zone will be postponed as well as about 45 “elective surgical procedures per week” in Grande Prairie as the health authority is “taking steps to create additional acute and ICU capacity.”

“(This is) to ensure we have the beds and staff required to take care of all patients needing hospital care, including those with COVID-19 as well as other Albertans who are sick or injured.,” AHS said.

READ MORE: Alberta reports 1,112 new COVID-19 infections Thursday as hospitalizations rise 

On Thursday, Alberta Health reported that it had identified 1,112 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of active coronavirus cases in the province to 9,066. As of Thursday afternoon, there were 308 people in Alberta hospitals with COVID-19. Of those, 64 were in intensive care units.

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AHS said the postponements, which will begin Monday, mimics surgical reductions that resulted from previous COVID-19 waves in Alberta. The postponed procedures in Grande Prairie will all be at the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital to “allow the site to increase bed capacity and create a dedicated COVID-19 unit.”

READ MORE: Alberta’s 4th wave of COVID-19 mirrors the beginning of previous 2 spikes: Expert 

“AHS is currently working through the province’s surgical backlog brought on by the pandemic,” the health authority said. “For the last two months we have been operating at 100 per cent of pre-COVID-19 surgical levels, and have been performing more non-urgent scheduled surgeries.

“All backlogged surgeries in wave one have been rebooked and 96 per cent of all delayed surgeries from wave one, two and three have been completed.”

AHS urged all Albertans who have yet to be fully immunized against COVID-19 to do so and called on people to stay home when they are ill.

Two weeks ago, Alberta backtracked on a plan to scale back COVID-19 testing and contact tracing and to lift COVID-19 protocols that included requiring people with the disease to stay home while they are sick. When chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw made the announcement, she said the decision was made in order to give health officials more time to assess the situation.

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READ MORE: Alberta keeping COVID-19 measures for another 6 weeks 

“If monitoring confirms our original expectations that a rise in cases will not lead to high levels of (hospitalizations) and we do not see evidence of increased risk for severe disease for children, we will proceed with implementing the next set of changes after Sept. 27,” she said at the time.

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