Mayor concerned by plan to move some seniors out of Fort McMurray hospital during COVID-19 crisis

Wood Buffalo’s mayor says he has written to Alberta’s health minister to raise concerns about seniors being moved out of a hospital in Fort McMurray to make sure there are enough beds to be ready for potential COVID-19 cases.

“It has been brought to council’s attention that in an effort to ensure adequate beds, Alberta Health Services proposes moving seniors from Northern Lights Regional Health Centre to locations outside of Wood Buffalo,” Mayor Don Scott said in a statement posted to the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo’s website on Sunday.

“We recognize that the movement of our seniors may be necessary to ensure their safety and well-being,” he added. “However, I, along with my council colleagues, have deep concerns about this action for a variety of reasons.”

READ MORE: Alberta sees 98 new COVID-19 cases; may be added benefit in wearing mask

Scott said he worries about a potential increased to the “morbidity rate” for seniors when they are moved, that he has heard “patients could expect as little as a two-hour notification” if a plan to move them goes forward even though there are no current COVID-19 cases at the hospital, and a “lack of clarity on how patients are being relocated, and how patients and families are being involved in the process.”

Story continues below advertisement

Scott said he is also concerned that moving seniors could bring about increased costs for families, and worries if those patients would have sufficient resources after such a move.

“[There’s also] a lack of clarity on a seniors’ return home; will a return occur when restrictions are lifted? Will a return be delayed until after the Willow Square Continuing Care Centre is completed and commissioned?”

Scott said that in his letter to Health Minister Tyler Shandro, which he wrote on behalf of council, he asked that if patients are moved, health officials “individually assess each intended older adult move,” make sure physicians are included on those assessments and follow their recommendations and “strictly adhere to the Patient First Strategy and commitments therein around ‘Every Interaction, Every Initiative and Every Investment.’”

In a statement issued to Global News on Monday, AHS said “on Friday, three seniors who were waiting for a continuing care space in the community were discharged from acute care beds at Northern Lights Regional Health Centre to a continuing care centre in Lac La Biche.”

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

“This decision was made after consultation with their physicians, and only when it was deemed safe and appropriate to move them,” the statement reads. “The seniors’ families were consulted on the discharges.

“Moving seniors out of hospitals and into available continuing care spaces is an important part of AHS’ planning, in preparation for the anticipated surge in COVID-19 patients.”

Tweet This

READ MORE: Kenney to present Albertans with COVID-19 projections during televised address Tuesday

AHS added that it “is imperative that we free up space in our hospitals.”

Story continues below advertisement

“We know we will likely [need] about 2,500 beds province-wide to ensure we can provide care to patients with COVID-19. We must find this space to ensure our hospitals are not overwhelmed,” the statement reads.

“Moving seniors out of hospital and into a more appropriate space will free up beds for COVID-19 patients, while also reducing the risk of those seniors being exposed to the virus while in hospital.”

Scott said the issue of seniors being moved out of the hospital is “an urgent matter” for him and councillors.

“Our region has been built by the hard work and commitment of our seniors, and they are a valued part of Wood Buffalo’s past, present, and future,” he said.

“During this public health crisis, it is critical that we are mindful to do what is best for them and their families.”

Tweet This

AHS said “every effort will be made” to eventually move patients back if that’s what they want, and to do so as soon as possible.

“These are extraordinary times, and we are simply unable to provide health care the way we usually do,” AHS said.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Source