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65 staff redeployed to handle the demand at Alberta Children’s Hospital

The Alberta Children's Hospital is bouncing between 100 and 120 per cent capacity, said Fullerton.

Sixty-five staff have been redeployed to Alberta Children’s Hospital (ACH) in Calgary to deal with capacity issues, mostly related to influenza and respiratory illness, a senior administrator said.

ACH Senior Operating Officer Margaret Fullerton, who is also a registered nurse, said they’ve been dealing with a capacity of between 100 and 120 per cent for the past month.

As a result, 65 staff – mostly from the Rotary Flames House – have been redeployed there to help. They will also be adding 10 new nurses in the emergency department starting in January.

“We always have plans for more; we’re hoping not to have to do that,” Fullerton said.

Some of the redeployed staff are coming from outpatient clinics, Fullerton said. There are 82 outpatient clinics and five will be impacted. These will be in the gastrointestinal, nephrology, orthopedics, surgery clinic and the pulmonary function clinic.

Fullerton also said that while staff are being moved from the Rotary Flames House, which provides respite care for a week at a time, the ACH still provides end of life and palliative care.

The ACH will be increasing capacity by adding six more inpatient beds, including staff to work them, Fullerton said. Another six short-stay beds will also be added.

“Obviously that is in addition to over-capacity already, so it really does give us a nice amount of beds that patients can flow into,” she said.

Fullerton added that pediatric intensive care was over capacity last week, but not this week.

Demand has spiked over the past month, Fullerton said. It’s mostly influenza and the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), with some Covid.

They have contingency in place should the health situation worsen, she said.

Prevention is the best way to curb healthcare pressure: Fullerton

Fullerton said while there may be some relief in sight, Calgarians still need to exercise good judgment to prevent cases from adding pressure to the system.

On Monday, Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping said that they’ve seen a turning point in the number of cases in the province.

But Fullerton said that prevention still remains the best way to deal with the impact to kids.

“If you are sick stay at home. Wearing a mask is certainly something that will help when you’re out in the big group of people, especially with winter upon us and parties going on,” she said.

“There is that viral activity that can happen in this respiratory season.”

The Calgary Catholic School District, in an update to parents Dec. 5, outlined their “Make it to Christmas” plan.

In that update, they continue to ask parents to keep kids at home if they’re sick. But it also includes a plan postpone large group gatherings like extra-curricular activities or Christmas concerts. They may also record these or make them available virtually to avoid large crowds.

They are also encouraging mask use in large group gatherings, including concerts or athletic events.

The Calgary Board of Education has outlined their health measures online.

On Tuesday, the province announced they’ve secured five million bottles of acetaminophen and ibuprofen for Alberta families.

“I want to thank Alberta Health Services for taking on the task for procuring this valuable medication and all our health-care professionals during this challenging time,” said Minister Copping.

“The current situation has also meant busy hospitals and doctors’ offices, as parents run out of options to treat their little ones. The strain on our system is real, and we are doing everything in our power to ease the burden on our health-care system in whatever way we can.”