Alberta has canceled all non-emergency surgeries to create temporary intensive care beds, while Saskatchewan plans a vaccine passport system as hospitals in those provinces struggle with a crush of unvaccinated COVID-19 patients .
Saskatchewan announced its vaccination requirement for non-essential services on Thursday, a day after Alberta introduced its own version of a vaccination passport and reimposed public-health restrictions. Both provinces had previously promised to avoid passports, but their low vaccination rates and rising COVID-19 hospital admissions prompted leaders to back down.
Alberta is now turning to others for help. It requested 60 ventilators from Ottawa and is in discussions with Ontario about potentially relocating patients there. Alberta plans to reach out to other provinces, including Quebec, as it develops its crisis plan. The canceled surgeries and pleas for aid follow weeks of inaction from leaders in Saskatchewan and Alberta, even as COVID-19 cases rose and vaccination rates declined.
Verna Yiu, chief executive officer of Alberta Health Services, said the fourth wave resulted in the sharpest increase in ICU admissions for COVID-19 patients during the pandemic. He said 18 to 20 people with COVID-19 are admitted to Alberta’s ICU every day. Health officials are scouring systems to find ways to care for additional ICU patients, turning operating rooms, recovery areas and other locations into temporary ICUs.
“There are more difficult days ahead,” Dr. Yiu said on Thursday.
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There are 268 people in Alberta’s ICU and 222 of them have COVID-19. The province currently has a total of 310 ICU beds, up from its baseline of 173. According to the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dina Hinshaw, about 78 percent of all COVID-19 patients in Alberta hospitals have not been vaccinated or have been partially vaccinated.