Red Deer’s hospital’s stressed intensive care unit doctors and nurses will be getting some help.
Premier Jason Kenney said on Thursday that the Canadian Red Cross has offered to provide up to 20 health care workers, including some with ICU training.
“These staff will likely be asked to help at the Red Deer regional hospital, which is under severe stress given low vaccination rates in rural central Alberta,” said Kenney. Red Deer hospital’s ICU is at 77 per cent capacity, with 17 COVID patients receiving intensive care.
The Canadian Armed Forces are going to provide eight to 10 ICU-trained staff who will likely be based at CFB Edmonton and take some of the pressure off hospitals there. The military is also prepared to provide medical transport if Alberta needs to transport patients out of province.
Newfoundland and Labrador have also offered to send five or six ICU-trained staff, who are expected to be used in Fort McMurray.
“This is a wonderful gesture from a province whose people have done so much to build Alberta’s prosperity.”
Kenney said in speaking with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday he asked the government to provide an inventory of available Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
“We’ve heard from a growing number of unvaccinated Albertans that they are willing to receive the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, rather than the three other vaccines currently available here,” said the premier, adding that B.C. and Saskatchewan have made similar requests.
Kenney said he is also pushing the federal government to make more rapid tests available. Only a dozen types of tests are approved in Canada compared to more than 30 in the United Kingdom and over 130 in other parts of Europe.
Health Minister Jason Copping said his primary goal remains building more ICU capacity.
“We are pulling out all the stops to build capacity but we still need to do more,” he said. That means reducing the spread of the disease and convincing vaccination holdouts to get their shots.
“Make no mistake, our system is under extreme duress right now and one way out of it is for more unvaccinated Albertans to get vaccinated in our hour of need.”
Alberta Health Services president Dr. Verna Yiu said 307 of Alberta’s 372 ICU beds, which includes 22 added in the last week, are filled. On Wednesday, 23 new COVID-19 patients were admitted to ICUs which is “one of the highest daily ICU admissions month.”
About 90 per cent of COVID-19 patients in intensive care are unvaccinated.
Alberta Public Service Commissioner Tim Grant also announced that all of its 25,500 Alberta Public Service employees have until Nov. 30 to show proof of vaccination. Those who don’t must either obtain an exemption or provide negative results within 72 hours of every scheduled workday or shift on an ongoing basis. Workers can show their vaccination status beginning Oct. 15.
“These tests will be required and will be paid for by the employees,” said Grant. Those who refuse will not be fired but will be placed on unpaid administrative leave.
Kenney said the government is also talking with the Opposition NDP about ways that a similar policy could be put in place for MLAs and their staff.
Alberta identified more than 1,706 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday — and 20 deaths, including seven in Central zone.
There are now 20,255 active cases of the virus in the province, to go along with the 275,200 recovered cases to date.
Provincially, 1,083 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, with 263 of those individuals in intensive care units. In the Central zone, 181 are hospitalized, with 19 in intensive care.
Red Deer now has 786 active cases of the virus, which is down from a record high of 915 on Monday, according to geospatial mapping on the provincial government’s website. The city’s death toll remains at 61
Red Deer County currently has 337 active cases of COVID-19, Clearwater County has 359, Lacombe County has 243, the City of Lacombe has 187, Mountain View County has 149, County of Stettler has 151, Sylvan Lake has 126 and Olds has 87.
Wetaskiwin County, including Maskwacis, has 265 active cases, while Rimbey, including West Ponoka County and partial Lacombe County, has 135, and Ponoka, including East Ponoka County, has 106.
Kneehill County has 139, the City of Camrose has 81, Camrose County has 59 and Drumheller has 34.
Overall, Alberta Health Services’ Central zone has 3,942 active cases of the virus.
In Alberta, 83.6 per cent of eligible people have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 74.3 per cent are fully vaccinated.