Stollery Children's Hospital beds in Edmonton to be used for adult emergency overflow

Ashley Joannou 3 minute read January 24, 2022

Increasing demand for emergency room care means a space originally intended for kids at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton has been temporarily converted to adult use for emergency overflow.

Alberta Health Services spokesman Kerry Williamson said in a statement Sunday that the renovated day ward space was not being used for pediatric surgical patients yet.

“Due to high patient demand and acuity in the University of Alberta Hospital emergency department, we will begin using the renovated day ward space at Stollery Children’s Hospital for adult or pediatric emergency overflow,” he said.

A memo from AHS dated Jan. 17, posted online over the weekend by NDP Leader Rachel Notley and others, says the change to accommodate emergency overflow would begin as early as Jan. 19.

“This re-allocation of space means the Stollery will maintain the current seven operating theatres, rather than advance to eight operating theatres as was planned for February 2022,”  it says.

“If pediatric surgery volumes experience a surge, new options and solutions will be explored.”

This is not the first time space at the Stollery has been converted for adult use. In earlier phases of the pandemic, ICU beds were used for adults in need.

This latest wave, fuelled by the Omicron variant, has seen less pressure being put on ICUs while the total number of hospitalized COVID positive patients has broken records and put pressure on the acute care system. As of Friday, Alberta had 1,191 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 107 patients in ICU.

Dr. Paul Parks, the head of the Alberta Medical Associations’ emergency medicine section, said Sunday that it makes sense that the health authority is looking for alternative spaces for emergency patients.

He said emergency departments in the big cities are “drowning in sick patients,” especially in the last few weeks, from a combination of normal patient loads during winter months, COVID-19 patients, patients with non-COVID illnesses whose care has been delayed or deferred during the pandemic, and a lack of staff because workers are calling in sick.

“At the U of A there’s roughly 50 care spaces where patients can be taken care of in the emergency department,” he said.

“At any given time in the last couple of weeks there could be 30 or more patients that are admitted, they’ve been taken care of, they should be up on the floor in a hospital bed, but there’s nowhere for them to go so they stay in the emergency department.”

Since the hospital wards are also being overwhelmed with their own bed and staffing concerns, that in turn prevents new patients from being cared for in the ER spaces.

“That’s been the reality of what we’ve been dealing with for the last couple of weeks as this fifth wave is really, really crushing our acute care system,” Parks said.

Williamson said the adult beds opening at the Stollery are not to treat COVID-positive patients.

A “small number” of scheduled pediatric surgeries that were going to take place in the newly renovated space in February will be rescheduled, he said.

“This change is part of the site’s pandemic plan. In these extraordinary times, AHS has had to make significant changes to the way we deliver healthcare. What has remained the same — anyone needing urgent, emergency healthcare will receive it.”


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