Red Deer hospital workers are waiting to discover if the reopening of schools will trigger a second COVID-19 wave that could overwhelm medical resources.
Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Keith Wolstenholme said frontline staff at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre are worried how a second wave could impact local health care.
“Is this going to mean a shutdown of everything that was shut down before, like diagnostic imaging, elective surgery, screening programs?
“We saw there were definitely some negative effects from those programs being shut down. We certainly want to avoid that happening again,” Wolstenholme said.
He said when the pandemic struck, the focus was on flattening the curve so there was enough equipment to treat COVID-19 patients.
“Sometimes, patients need to go on a ventilator for three or four weeks, and we definitely have limited resources with regards to ICU beds and ventilators.”
He said so far, COVID-19 has not struck central Alberta quite as hard as other regions in the province.
As of Monday, Alberta Health Services’ central zone had experienced 588 COVID-19 cases, with 554 recovered, during the pandemic.
“We’ll see what happens with the reopening of schools. I think that’s going to be a big determiner. If we can get through that without a huge second wave, we’re probably ready to return to the new normal. But I don’t think there’s any guarantee that’s going to happen.”
Wolstenholme encouraged people to continue to follow the recommendations to wear masks and social distance.
“I don’t think we should treat it like it’s over. People need to keep being smart and keep being safe.”
He said since the return of elective surgery in June, the impact of COVID has actually been quite small. But the volume of trauma and emergency cases over the summer has probably been higher than previous summers, because people were participating in more outdoor activities and sticking closer to home.
“Certainly this summer, we have had more than one occasion where we’ve had to cancel elective patients because the emergency add-list has been so large. That’s unusual.
“With certain elective surgeries, like hip and knee replacements, the wait lists are already very long, so it’s quite disappointing when we have to cancel that type of patient,” Wolstenholme said.