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Alberta’s COVID-19 Outbreak Forces Closure of Over 500 Continuing Care Beds

Home > Abuse & Neglect Studies Dependent Adult Abuse Letters & Reports > Alberta’s COVID-19 Outbreak Forces Closure of Over 500 Continuing Care Beds

Widespread outbreaks of the coronavirus in Alberta’s continuing care network
have forced operators to close hundreds of beds in their facilities, creating
a bottleneck in the broader health care system that could soon translate to
reduced access to elective surgeries and other procedures.

Continuing care facilities across the province have collectively closed more
than 500 beds in their effort to contain the coronavirus,
AHS said in its
memo to medical staff. People who would normally fill these spots are, in turn,
stuck waiting in hospital beds
, which then crimps the flow of patients in acute
care facilities. This pressure is compounded as hospitals in Calgary and Edmonton
close beds in rooms that normally accommodate three or four patients to create
makeshift isolation spaces for COVID-19 patients.

Hospitals in Calgary and the southern part of the province are planning to create
“surge capacity” over the next seven to 14 days in order to cope with rising
COVID-19 admissions and fewer available beds. The measures would be similar
to those adopted earlier this month in Edmonton, where roughly 30 per cent of
elective surgeries are being postponed to manage the load in hospitals
Acute care facilities in Alberta’s two largest cities frequently exceed capacity
right now, and some units are running at 125-per-cent occupancy.

“Ultimately, we need Albertans to work hard to reduce the amount of COVID-19
transmission in our communities to ensure we have the capacity to care for those
who need it most,” the memo, dated Nov. 13, said.
Kerry Williamson, a spokesman for AHS, said hospitals in Calgary and southern
Alberta have yet to postpone any surgeries but are ready to do so. If necessary,
frontline teams would be redeployed to areas in most need of help and operating
rooms and surgical recovery rooms may be used for other purposes, he said.
Alberta’s intensive care units accommodated 57 COVID-19 patients as of Monday,
up from 28 at the start of the month. In all, 268 people with COVID-19 were in
hospital Monday, compared to 139 on Nov. 1. But COVID-19 admissions complicate
capacity problems. Hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary have patients in about
1,200 isolation beds, even though isolation capacity tops out around 800, the
AHS memo said. Hospitals created the additional 400 spaces by closing beds in
multi-bed rooms. This isolation juggling, coupled with unit outbreaks, has put
250 acute care beds out of service in Edmonton and Calgary,
Mr. Williamson said.
COVID-19 has killed 432 people in Alberta since the pandemic started and 296 of
these individuals lived in continuing care facilities. Zoe Cooper, a spokeswoman
for Alberta Health, on Tuesday said 102 continuing care facilities are experiencing
active COVID-19 outbreaks.

As a result of the active outbreaks, 1,254 continuing care residents contracted
COVID-19 and 33 of them died. Continuing care includes home care, supportive living,
long-term care, hospice, and end-of-life care.
Laura Tamblyn Watts is the chief executive of CanAge, which advocates for seniors
nationally. Alberta’s situation, she said, underscores how problems in the long-term
care system can threaten to topple other parts of the health care system.
“We know that the consequences are lives lost, families ruined, and a health care
system that becomes broken,” she said.

Alberta placed 8,521 people into continuing care last year, according to AHS’ 2019-2020
annual report
. Of those, 5,113 were moved from hospital beds and the remaining 3,408
entered care from their home. Albertans had to wait an average of 54 days before they
could get into continuing care, with those in hospital beds waiting an average of 36 days.
Alberta counted 1,412 people waiting for a continuing care space at the end of the last
fiscal year and
410 of those were in hospital beds.

There were 27,774 continuing care spaces in Alberta at the end of March, according
to the report. Of these, 15,665 were long-term care beds, 11,853 were designated
supportive living beds, and 256 were community palliative and hospice spaces.
“Continued growth in community and home care capacity is the key to efficient system
flow in emergency departments, acute care and community,” the report said.


    Prior to the covid-19 outbreak, across the province, 100’s of hapless seniors were already
    languishing in uncomfortable, active treatment, hospital beds waiting for admission to
    long term care beds.

    Oftentimes these seniors are maligned and referred to as Bed Blockers.

    This is a long standing issue dating back to the 1990’s. In 1990, the time of the
    massive, province wide, BRODA LONG TERM CARE REPORT, it was reported that there were
    over 500 seniors detained in active treatment beds.


    Many of these seniors have been stripped of all rights and money, receive virtually
    no nursing care, provided no activities, no recreation, no physical exercise,
    sit on their beds all day, are not allowed off the ward, are never taken out of doors
    for fresh air.

    Some months ago, we visited one of these units at the Royal Alex Hospital, Edmonton.
    At 4:00 PM, we saw residents were wearing pyjamas. We inquired and were told that
    they are kept in pyjamas because there is no one to do laundry. Thus they
    are kept in pyjamas 24/7

    Some seniors are detained in these circumstances for up to a year.

    These Albertans are not BED BLOCKERS.

    In fact. we allege the they are subsidizing the hospital system.

    When admitted to the active treatment hospital, these seniors are classified as
    ‘long- term care’ patients & forced to pay the monthly long term care room & board
    of between $1500 & $1700.

    Furthermore, long-term care patients under the Canada Health Act are allotted
    approximately $ 3,000 to $5,000 monthly Federal health care dollars for nursing
    care when in long term care. Is this allotted money also being directed to the hospitals?

    Is this why, for decades, there has been failure by governments to provide
    necessary long- term care beds?

    Is it – because – Bed Blockers – actually -subsidize hospitals?

    Furthermore, is this why large numbers of long term care beds are being closed?

    Effective July 1, 2018
    Based on 2.2% increase in the Alberta Consumer Price Index*
    Room Type Daily Adjustment Avg. Monthly Adjustment
    Private room $66.95 $1.45/day $2,036 $44/month
    Semi-private $57.90 $1.25/day $1,761 $38/month
    Standard $55.00 $1.20/day $1,673 $37/month
    *As published by Statistics Canada, for the 12 month period ending on February 28, 2018.



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