The central zone experienced a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases Thursday, rising from 454 to 508 active cases over the past 24 hours, with 10 people in hospital. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

The central zone experienced a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases Thursday, rising from 454 to 508 active cases over the past 24 hours, with 10 people in hospital. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Alberta government makes request to Canadian Red Cross for field hospitals

The Alberta Government has examined the possibility of needing help from the Canadian Red Cross as the COVID-19 pandemic drives on.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro confirmed media reports Wednesday that the province has asked the Canadian Red Cross and the federal government for field hospitals to help with the case surge.

Shandro said the request is part of long-term and prudent contingency planning.

“This (tent scenario) is not something that’s in our current plans to increase our acute-care bed capacity,” he said.

In a Twitter thread Wednesday evening, Alberta Health Services said “There are no current plans to open these additional beds, however it is vital we have the required agreements in place with our external partners should we need them.”

In addition, AHS said the beds if needed would be used for low acuity patients or vulnerable populations who need low acuity healthcare.

Premier Jason Kenney also said Wednesday that the request in no way signals the province has failed to properly manage the spread of COVID-19.

“I think it’s a sign of responsible planning on our part for a potential extreme scenario. We were doing the same thing in the spring when we saw places around the world having to convert convention centres into makeshift hospitals,” he said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the province had 17,144 active cases of the virus and a 9.2 per cent test positivity rate. The province has reported more than 1,000 cases each day for almost two weeks. Alberta also has 504 people in hospital, 97 of which are in the ICU. Alberta’s ICU patients have nearly tripled since Oct. 30.

With files from The Canadian Press