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Alberta reports slight drop in critically ill COVID-19 patients in hospitals

EDMONTON — Alberta is reporting a slight drop in the number of critically ill COVID-19 patients in hospital — three per cent down from a week ago.

EDMONTON — Alberta is reporting a slight drop in the number of critically ill COVID-19 patients in hospital — three per cent down from a week ago.

Alberta Health Services says in a statement that there are 298 patients in intensive care wards, most of them with the infection.

The province has been scrambling for weeks to create ad hoc intensive care beds to accommodate thousands of new COVID-19 patients.

There are 374 intensive care beds, more than double the normal 173.

New cases continue to number more than 1,000 daily, as they have for weeks.

The province is reporting that daily counts averaged more than 1,300 a day from Friday to Sunday, with 21 more deaths to bring that total to 2,752.

The number of active cases remains over 20,000.

Alberta has put out a call for help, and that aid is set to arrive soon.

A military contingent was expected to be on the ground Monday to decide where to deploy eight critical care nurses.

Public Safety Canada said the Canadian Red Cross is also planning to send up to 20 medical professionals, some with intensive care experience, to augment or relieve staff in hospitals.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Canadian Armed Forces members will use their experience to help Alberta battle the fourth wave of the pandemic.

Operation LASER is the Canadian Armed Forces’ response to COVID-19. Sajjan said that since the beginning of the pandemic, the military has responded to more than 65 requests for assistance from provincial or federal partners.

Newfoundland and Labrador is also sending a medical team of five or six intensive care staff to work in Alberta's northern oil city of Fort McMurray.

Alberta Health Services has had to reassign staff to handle the surge of intensive care patients. There have been mass cancellations of non-urgent surgeries as a result. 

Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley urged Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative government to deliver a daily report on how many critical surgeries have been postponed.

She said the government should reveal a plan on how to catch up on the backlog, along with modelling to show how long the health emergency will last.

“We are in a crisis. We need transparency, accountability and real, substantial action to get through it,” Notley said in Calgary.

Intensive care physicians, emergency ward doctors, the executive of the Alberta Medical Association and the Canadian Medical Association have called for a lockdown in the province to try to stem the tide of COVID-19 patients.

Kenney said last week he wants to see if recent health measures, including an indoor mask mandate, gathering restrictions and a form of vaccine passport, boost vaccination rates.

 This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 4, 2021.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press