Alberta’s COVID-19 ‘contingency plan’ includes requests for field hospital

The government of Alberta is considering setting up more field hospitals as part of its COVID-19 “contingency plan,” and has asked the Canadian Red Cross for help with that.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Alberta have risen steadily in recent weeks, as have daily infections, with a total of 504 in hospital on Wednesday, with 97 being treated in ICUs.

Read more: Leaked Alberta modelling data projects upwards of 775 COVID-19 hospitalizations by mid-December

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the request for the tent is “not something that’s in our current plan.”

“It’s not included in our current plans to increase our acute care bed capacity to 2,250 [for COVID-19 patients],” Shandro said.

But he said officials have reached out to the Red Cross to ask about and negotiate a tent, like the one erected outside the Peter Lougheed Centre in the spring, “if and when we needed it.”

“They’ve begun conversations, but this is not part of our current plans, this is conversations about a contingency plan – which health officials should be doing.”

The temporary hospital expansion going up in the parking lot of the Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary on April 15, 2020.
The temporary hospital expansion going up in the parking lot of the Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary on April 15, 2020. Kevin Billo, Global News

When asked about when the government believes it may need to enact that contingency plan, Shandro said that was a question for Alberta Health Services.

“If it would ever have to be erected and installed in Alberta, that would be up to AHS to make that decision, so I would defer that question to them,” he said.

Read more: Alberta hospitals ‘frequently exceeding’ capacity as COVID-19 cases spike: AHS memo

AHS deferred Global News’ question about the tent to Alberta Health.

Premier Jason Kenney called the request a “sign of responsible planning” for a “potential extreme scenario,” and said the same kind of planning was underway in the spring when regions across the world were setting up makeshift hospitals to handle surges in cases.

“Thankfully we’ve never been close to having to call upon that kind of extraordinary capacity,” Kenney said.

“The reality is that we have and can continue to create capacity, as we expect — quite bluntly — the hospitalizations numbers to go up, given the new cases in the last few weeks. But that demonstrates that we’re not anywhere at the point of having to call on that kind of overflow capacity.”

Alberta has approximately 85,000 beds across the province’s roughly 100 hospitals, and the government is working to expand the number of beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients to more than 2,200.

Click to play video 'AHS doctor says Alberta hospitals are under ‘significant strain’ amid COVID-19 pandemic' 1:58 AHS doctor says Alberta hospitals are under ‘significant strain’ amid COVID-19 pandemic

AHS doctor says Alberta hospitals are under ‘significant strain’ amid COVID-19 pandemic

A government source told Global News the request for a tent from the Red Cross did not include a request for staff.

Read more: COVID-19: Staff at Calgary hospitals told to ‘engage in oxygen conservation’ as cases rise

On Wednesday, Alberta also announced its plan for receiving and administering vaccinations once they arrive in the province. Officials expect to start immunizing people in January.

Alberta saw 1,685 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the last 24 hours, and the province’s test positivity rate rose to 9.2 per cent. A total of 17,144 Albertans have an active case of the novel coronavirus.

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

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