A patient died over the weekend while waiting in the emergency department at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary to open heated trailer next to busy ER

Alberta’s health-care delivery agency says it’s preparing for surges in patients at Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary by opening a heated trailer next to the facility’s emergency department.

Alberta Health Services announced the move in a series of tweets this weekend, noting the trailer will be operational in early December.

Health officials said earlier this 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.

AHS says the trailer in Calgary will be used when the emergency department sees surges in patient volume and will be monitored in the same way as the emergency department waiting area.

It calls the additional space “a comfort measure to help with crowding and weather conditions,” but notes it won’t be used as a primary treatment area.

Health officials said in mid-November that the Alberta Children’s Hospital emergency department had been seeing more than 300 visits a day, compared to between about 180 and 220 before the latest surge.

“No matter where patients are seen at the hospital site, they will always receive appropriate treatment. We’d like to thank the public for their patience and understanding as our staff work to see and treat patients as efficiently as possible,” reads a tweet from AHS posted on Saturday.

School boards, meanwhile, have been asking for more direction as a slew of seasonal respiratory illnesses along with some COVID-19 cases have led to high classroom absentee rates and jammed children’s hospitals.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, however, said last week the province is done treating every respiratory season with extreme measures.

Smith defended new rules banning mask mandates for students and ordering schools to provide in-person learning during the current wave of viral illnesses.

Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley responded to news of the trailer with a call for more resources and staff.

“This is a full-on crisis,” she said in a tweet.

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