Premier Jason Kenney said that while the province’s new COVID-19 case numbers have stabilized, he expects hospitalizations to continue to rise for the next week or so as more ill Albertans enter the system. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

Premier Jason Kenney said that while the province’s new COVID-19 case numbers have stabilized, he expects hospitalizations to continue to rise for the next week or so as more ill Albertans enter the system. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

Record number of people in ICU: says AHS president

The head of Alberta Health Services says hospital staff are treating more people in intensive care units than at any other time in the province’s history.

Dr. Verna Yiu, AHS president and chief executive officer, says more than 240 patients are in ICUs, including 186 with COVID-19.

“We now have the highest number of COVID-positive patients in ICU at 186. For context, this is six times higher than the record number of influenza patients needing ICU care in previous years,” said Dr. Verna Yiu.

Yiu says capacity would have been surpassed had the province not opened an additional 106 ICU beds on top of its pre-pandemic capacity of about 170.

“That is easily the most ICU patients that we have ever seen in our health-care system, and definitely higher than what we’ve seen in waves one and two,” said Yiu.

In the past month, COVID ICU patients have increased by more than 100 per cent, Yiu said.

“Our ICU teams are providing incredible, life-saving care to those patients. But it’s important to keep in mind they’ve been doing this for more than 15 months through three significant waves. They are understandably tired and we should all take pause to appreciate the work they’re doing,” she said.

Yiu said COVID-19 cases in hospital tend to lag behind the trend of cases in the community, “so we can expect cases in our hospitals to continue to increase for a little while yet.”

Premier Jason Kenney urged Albertans to encourage their families and friends to get the shot, describing vaccines as “our way to get back to normal.”

More than 2.1 million vaccine doses have been administered in the province – 48.9 per cent of Albertans over 12 have received at least one dose.

“Make the choice to get protected. The sooner you are, the sooner we can lift restrictions and get back to normal,” Kenney said.

“The people that are getting ill and hospitalized now are overall younger and without compromising health conditions because we took steps to protect the most vulnerable and elderly Albertans first. That strategy has worked. Now we just need to get everyone else vaccinated.”

With declining COVID-19 numbers, Albertans can look forward to the easing of restrictions “in the very near future,” the premier said.

“We are working on a clear path to reopen Alberta this summer, tied in part to the rate of vaccination as well as to hospitalization,” Kenney said.

“It’ll be a careful plan that will get us to a great Alberta summer as long as Albertans continue the huge momentum to get vaccinated.”

COVID-19 exists everywhere, not just urban centres, Kenney added, stressing that the virus isn’t an urban versus rural issue.

“People’s lives matter just as much, no matter where they live (or) where they come from,” Kenney said.

– With files from The Canadian Press

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