A 24-hour shelter for the homeless stricken by the flu accommodated an average of eight people per day since it opened Friday.
And more beds may fill up soon.
“This week with the word really getting out to the soup kitchens and everywhere, we’ll just wait and see what happens,” said Colleen Markus, director of programs with Central Alberta’s Safe Harbour Society for Health & Housing.
Safe Harbour recently started seeing more clients at its overnight shelter program with the flu and organized the 25-cot shelter at the city’s former Electric Light and Power office in Cronquist Business Park, at 5581-45th St.
The City of Red Deer donated the use of the empty building and the cots.
Markus said people using the shelter really appreciate being able to stay in one location to recuperate.
“They are just crashing, curling up in a chair or on a cot just sleeping and not having to worry about moving. It means they’ll be able to recover that much more quickly,” she said on Monday.
Red Deer Emergency Services paramedics have been dropping in to assess flu patients twice a day.
“Everyone is really working together to make sure people get the care they need and that they’re not slipping through the cracks with something undiagnosed.”
In Alberta, five more people died with H1N1 over the weekend bringing the total to 25 who died either directly due to the virus or from a chronic condition aggravated by the virus.
In the last decade, direct deaths from the annual seasonal flu range from 11 to 90. About 300 die each year, directly and indirectly.
Dr. Gerry Predy, Alberta Health Services’ Senior Medical Officer of Health, said about one third of 300 intensive care beds in the province are now occupied by H1N1 patients.
“The ICU is certainly, certainly very busy. Under pressure. But I think they’re still coping,” Predy said.
“We do have the capability of increasing our ICU capacity as necessary.”
Information on ICU patients at Red Deer hospital’s was not available, but its emergency room saw 110 people with flu-like symptoms on the weekend.
So far over 450,000 Albertans have been vaccinated against H1N1.
Last Thursday in Central Alberta 3,177 people were vaccinated. On Friday 1,761 got the shot, with 844 on Saturday and 644 Sunday.
After being overwhelmed in the first week of the vaccination campaign when it was available to the general public, some clinic staff were told to go home early on the weekend when fewer people came out.
“Over the weekend we had no way of knowing how many people would come forward. We didn’t want to be caught short-staffed again,” Predy said.
He said it appears most young children and pregnant women have received the vaccine, but if they haven’t they still can as the vaccine rolls out to more high risk groups.
Starting Tuesday (NOV10), the H1N1 vaccine will become eligible to both parents or one parent and one caregiver of infants under six months of age; and children under 10 as of Nov. 1 who have chronic health conditions.
Chronic conditions eligible are diabetes, obesity (BMI over 30), cancer, chronic kidney disease, asthma requiring medication, other chronic lung conditions, congenital heart abnormality, neurological disorders, Down syndrome, congenital or acquired immune deficiency, and any disorder requiring aspirin treatment.
For more details on which conditions are eligible go online at www.albertahealthservices.ca
H1N1 vaccination clinics Central Alberta will be held at the following locations:
• In Red Deer at First Christian Reform Church, 16 McVicar St., 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
• Rimbey Community Centre, 5109-54th St., 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
• Castor Provincial Building, 4909-50th Ave., 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
• Innisfail Middle School, 4501-52nd Ave., 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
• Lacombe Memorial Centre, 5214-50th Ave., 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
• Festival Hall in Red Deer, 4214-58th St., 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
• Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, 515-3rd St., 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
• Festival Hall in Red Deer, 4214-58th St., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Memorial Presbyterian Church in Rocky Mountain House, 5108-50th St., 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
• Seniors Recreation Centre #4 in Sundre, 101-2nd Ave. N.W., 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
• Ponoka Rec Centre, 5015-46th Ave., 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
For information on the flu shelter call Safe Harbour at 403-347-0181. Donations of ginger ale, toothbrushes and toothpaste, men’s pyjamas, slippers, sweat pants, socks hats and gloves will be gratefully accepted.