Lethbridge's Chinook Regional Hospital is experiencing an occupancy of 96 per cent due in large part to seasonal influenza-like and gastro-intestinal-type illnesses circulating in the community.
CRH is just one of the hospitals in Alberta Health Services' south zone with capacity pressures and AHS said Thursday protocols are underway to ease pressures.
"We are not at a stage where other services are impacted by these high volumes and our focus continues to be to provide the best possible access to health-care services possible," said Dr. Vanessa Maclean, medical director for the AHS' south zone.
Rural health facilities within the south zone are also seeing high patient volumes, while occupancy at Medicine Hat Regional is at about 85 per cent.
AHS says it is important for Albertans to play a role in protecting themselves from illness, preventing the spread of illness and preserving emergency and acute care for those who need it most.
Some health and medical needs, including the management of many seasonal illnesses, can be best met in a place other than a hospital's emergency department.
In addition to family doctors, walk-in clinics, urgent-care centres, Primary Care Networks and family care clinics, most cases of influenza-like illnesses can be managed at home through self care.
Staying home when sick, getting plenty of rest and maintaining fluid intake to prevent dehydration are not only sufficient self-care measures for many cases, they are measures that reduce the risk of spreading illness to others, and reduce the pressure on the health-care system, says AHS.
"Emergency departments will never turn away those who need treatment," said Dr. Maclean.
"We are looking to Albertans to educate themselves on the options available for their care to ensure they get the care they need quickly, and also to help reduce the pressures on our EDs during this season."
Influenza immunization is another way to protect yourself, your family and the community.
The influenza vaccine is still available, free of charge, to all Albertans six months of age and older. For clinic locations and details, call Health Link Alberta, or visit www.albertahealthservices.ca/immunization.
If you are unsure of your treatment options, call Health Link Alberta for advice on seeking appropriate medical care or visit http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/options.
AHS also has an app for locating health-care centres near you. Visit http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/mobile.asp to download to your iPhone, iPad or Android device.