Alberta Health Services has opened and staffed 19 of the 50 permanent intensive care unit beds promised by the provincial government.
These new beds, supported by $100 million this year from the 2022 provincial budget, are located at hospitals in Calgary, Edmonton, St. Albert, Grande Prairie and Lethbridge, the Government of Alberta announced Friday. None of the beds were for Red Deer.
“We are moving fast and diligently to add permanent ICU beds where they are most needed,” said Jason Copping, minister of health.
“This is outstanding work by AHS to add nurses and medical staff to support these beds that give Albertans access to critical, acute health care when they need it. COVID-19 is still putting pressure on Alberta hospitals, but we’re countering that with a bold plan to ensure our health system is resilient and can respond to any health crisis.”
The remaining 31 beds are expected to open by the end of September.
Premier Jason Kenney said the government is delivering on its promise to build a stronger healthcare system.
“More ICU beds will bring peace of mind to care teams and will give doctors and nurses the space and capacity to surge care up and down, depending on demand,” said Kenney.
Alberta’s NDP claims the provincial government has failed to address the deepening crisis in Alberta’s healthcare system.
“There are 21 communities in Alberta right now where the hospital is partially closed due to staff shortages caused by the UCP,” said the NDP in a statement.
“In Red Deer, 14 ambulances were backed up in the hospital parking lot waiting to get to the emergency room. Days later the hospital had to divert all of its general surgeries to other communities. Obstetrics has been halted in Barrhead, St. Paul, Rimbey, Sundre, Three Hills, Provost, Wainwright and Whitecourt due to staffing shortages.”
Shannon Phillips, NDP critic for finance, said part of the pressure hospitals and ambulances are under is due to “the serious damage Jason Kenney and the UCP have caused” to primary care.
“The sight of Jason Kenney standing in front of unstaffed beds hastily pushed into an unfinished room really tells the story of healthcare under the UCP,” said Phillips.
“Thanks to Jason Kenney and the UCP, we don’t have enough staff to operate the beds we already have, or the ambulances we already have, or the primary care clinics we already have.
“The UCP war on frontline professionals has created a profound crisis in healthcare.”
With the opening of the 19 new beds, Alberta now has 192 adult general ICU beds across the province, up from 173 before the pandemic. With $300 million over three years, AHS will boost its ICU capacity to 223 beds across all AHS zones.
To date, AHS has also filled 250 positions to support the new beds, including nurses, allied health professionals and pharmacists, as well as clinical support service positions such as diagnostic imaging and service workers. AHS plans to recruit to fill another 425 clinical and support service positions to support the total bed numbers.
When the beds are not in use, staff will support other areas of the hospital, offering greater flexibility and overall capacity to the broader health system, according to the provincial government.