Hospitals in Alberta Health Services’ South Zone are experiencing capacity pressures, in part due to seasonal influenza-like and gastro-intestinal-type illnesses circulating in the community. Capacity protocols are underway to ease pressures, according to health officials.
Albertans can assist by ensuring they have received their influenza immunization and know their care options. Emergency Departments are one of several options.
Both Medicine Hat and Chinook Regional Hospitals are experiencing high patient volumes, and the same is true for a number of rural health facilities within the South Zone.
“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, AHS South Zone.
Currently, hospital occupancy at Lethbridge is at 96 per cent and about 85 per cent at Medicine Hat Regional. Occupancy in Medicine Hat’s medicine/surgical units and in sub-acute is over 90 per cent.
AHS currently has numerous gastro-intestinal and respiratory illness outbreaks in continuing care facilities and in some hospital units. This greatly limits flexibility in managing hospital inpatient capacity, according to an AHS press release.
The release also stated 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 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, said health officials.
Moving non-emergent visits into the community frees considerable resources in Emergency Departments for Albertans who most urgently require those services.
“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.”
Those who are unsure of treatment options can call Health Link Alberta for advice on seeking appropriate medical care or visit http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/options.