Alberta's Health Minister Jason Copping gives an update in Edmonton, Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Respite-care staff redeployed to help out at Alberta Children’s Hospital

A surge in patients at Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary has prompted the province’s health delivery agency to redeploy staff from a facility that helps dying children so they can offer extra support to the overburdened hospital.

Alberta Health Services says in a news release that with respiratory viruses surging in the community, Alberta Children’s Hospital is seeing “sustained high volumes of acutely ill patients.”

As a result, the release says AHS has “made the difficult decision” to pause respite admissions at Rotary Flames House in order to redeploy staff to the hospital.

AHS says all other services at Rotary Flames House, including palliative, end of life care, will continue but will be temporarily relocated to Alberta Children’s Hospital.

Rotary Flames House provides palliative care service, including a community-based hospice, for children with life-limiting illnesses and their families.

It also offers respite care, which provides a scheduled break for caregivers from caring for a chronically or terminally ill child living at home.

“We understand this temporary pause in respite services may be concerning and difficult for our clients and families. We will do our best to resume this important service as soon as possible,” the news release from AHS on Friday said.

“These are extraordinary times, and we thank Albertans in advance for their support and understanding.”

The release said AHS plans to have all clients discharged from Rotary Flames House respite care by Tuesday.

Grief support will continue, it says.

Health officials said last month that in-patient units at both Alberta Children’s and Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton were at or over 100 per cent of their normal capacity.

Just over a week ago, Alberta Health Services announced a heated trailer was being opened beside the emergency department at Alberta Children’s Hospital in preparation for surges in patients.

The health agency called the additional space “a comfort measure to help with crowding and weather conditions,” and noted it would be used as a primary treatment area.

The Opposition NDP has been calling for an emergency debate in the legislature on what it says is a crisis in children’s health care.

“I am heartbroken thinking of what these children, their families, and hospice staff are going through right now,” NDP Children’s Services Critic Rakhi Pancholi said in a statement that responded to the staff redeployment at Rotary Flames House.

“We should be making every effort to make them as comfortable as possible.”

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