Alberta will move patients out of acute-care hospital beds to make room for others sick with COVID-19, Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced Thursday.
Patients who are moved out of hospitals will be taken care of at home and in facility-based continuing care, Shandro told a news conference.
The province, working to cope with the surging fourth wave of the pandemic, will provide up to $36 million in new funding to improve wages and create additional workforce capacity to allow more Albertans to receive care outside of hospitals, Shandro said.
He said $22 million will be used to increase the pay of health-care aides working in contracted agencies.
The money will provide a pay increase of $2 per hour for the next 13 months. Another $14 million will be used to expand workforce capacity to support home care and continuing care facilities until March 31.
"Health-care aides, it should be noted, are the core workforce of continuing care," Shandro said.
More than 400 Albertans are currently in hospital waiting to move into continuing care facilities, with others waiting to return to their homes.
Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO of Alberta Health Services (AHS), said about 200 of the hospital patients could be moved within the next week or two.
"By providing this incentive funding and providing more home care staff, we're hoping that we can actually improve the flow within the hospital to allow for an increase in the capacity," Yiu said.
Shandro said many continuing-care facility operators arestruggling with staffing shortages. The extra funding will allow AHS to work with them to find ways that will make current staff more available, and deploy new staff in areas that need the most help.
"The hospital is only the right place to get care as long as you really need to be there," he said.
Shandro said the government is exploring all options to increase capacity in the health-care system.
"We know that there's a lot of work ahead of us. But with the fourth wave surging, and the health-care system coping with this fourth wave, now is the time to move ahead with some of these important measures that will improve capacity immediately."
1,510 new cases, 9 new deaths
Alberta reported 1,510 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, breaking the 1,500-new infection mark for the first time since May. The new cases were detected on about 13,800 tests with a positivity rate around 11 per cent.
Nine new deaths were reported, bringing the province's total toll to 2,434.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said "many more deaths" recently in Alberta demonstrate the continued importance of immunizations.
"Vaccines, like all other medical interventions, are not perfect," Hinshaw said. "What they can offer, however, is a high level of protection against infection and an even higher level of protection against severe outcomes."
In the past four months, 84 per cent of all those who died from COVID-19 have not been fully immunized, Hinshaw said. Some breakthrough infections are occurring in people who are fully immunized, and in some cases they have led to severe outcomes, including death, she said.
"The majority of these severe outcomes have been in those who are older, have multiple medical conditions, and this is why we have implemented a third dose for those with immune-compromising conditions, and for all residents in seniors continuing care facilities."
679 in hospital, including 154 in ICU
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 also continue to increase in Alberta.
There are now 679 people being treated in hospital with COVID-19, up from 647 on Wednesday.
There are 154 people being treated in intensive care beds for COVID-19. About 89 per cent of patients in ICU are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.
Active cases in Alberta are now up to 15,977. Here's how active cases break down regionally:
- Edmonton zone: 4,783.
- Calgary zone: 4,417.
- North zone: 2,900.
- Central zone: 2,212.
- South zone: 1,636.
- Unknown: 29.
Move to 'endemic' premature, Hinshaw admits
Hinshaw said Thursday her recommendations in the spring and early summer for how best to handle COVID-19 were based on what she felt would be most beneficial to the overall health of Albertans.
"Clearly, the move to endemic was too early," she said. "We saw early signs of that in early August when we did see trends that were not the same as what our modelling predicted."
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