COVID-19: Unvaccinated pregnant patients leave Alberta ICUs making difficult decisions

Health

Global News 10 October, 2021 - 09:30pm 2 views

Read full article at Global News

COVID-19 live updates: Overworked healthcare sector brace for staff shortages; COVID-positive support person allowed in delivery room; Surge in alcohol-related illnesses

Edmonton Journal 10 October, 2021 - 07:19pm

As Alberta grapples with a fourth wave of COVID-19 at the start of another school year, we’re looking to hear your stories on this evolving situation.

However, he added, “we’re in an ethical situation where it’s also scary not to ensure that all health workers are vaccinated. So it’s a bit of a Catch-22.”

To tackle staff scarcity, at least one province is offering signing bonuses to nurses. Provinces including Quebec and British Columbia have made it mandatory for healthcare workers and nursing staff to be vaccinated to continue working in their respective fields.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also unveiled one of the strictest vaccine mandates in the world last week, saying unvaccinated federal employees will be sent on unpaid leave and making COVID-19 shots mandatory for air, train and ship passengers.

Layoffs have are started to hit, with one hospital in southern Ontario last week dumping 57 employees, representing 2.5% of staff, after its vaccine mandate came into effect. A long-term care home in Toronto put 36% of its staff on unpaid leave after they refused to get vaccinated, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp reported.

AHS confirmed an exemption to quarantine rules allows a COVID-19 positive person to join a pregnant patient in exceptional circumstances and if the hospital is made aware ahead of time. A chief medical officer of health order in effect since July 29 says this designated support person must stay two metres away from everyone except the patient and infant.

“These exemptions, which have been in effect since July 2021, are granted under exceptional circumstances and only at the request of the patient giving birth. We know the importance of having support at this time. This is a critical part of our approach to patient centred care,” reads an AHS tweet.

Despite this, the provincial health authority says there are protocols in place to make sure people are safe.

“The patient & essential support person will remain under contact & droplet isolation. This includes the facility providing access to bathroom facilities & food,” AHS says.

Mental and behavioural disorders resulting from alcohol use as well as alcohol-related depression and withdrawal are among the few non-COVID causes of hospital admission that have increased in the province since March 2020, says Calgary physician Dr. Eddy Lang.

An article co-written by Lang that was published in the medical journal PLOS ONE in June revealed alcohol consumption rose from the fifth-highest cause of hospitalization in the province to the third during the first six months of the pandemic.

Alcohol-related illnesses accounted for 3.46 per cent of hospital admissions between March and September 2020, up from 2.65 per cent in that timeframe the previous year.

“Considering the number of hospitalizations we have in Alberta, that’s a significant increase,” Lang said, attributing the rising drinking rates to heightened feelings of pandemic anxiety.

“There’s been lots of lost employment and family separation. We know that people are managing that with alcohol and cannabis. That’s going to manifest with people going overboard,” he said. “Alcohol is like gasoline on the fire of mental illness. If you’re already depressed you might think alcohol will make you feel better but in long run it makes things worse because it contributes to suicidal thoughts.”

Increased rates of drinking in Alberta are also showing up in liver health.

Hospitalizations for alcoholic hepatitis rose by 90.5 per cent in the first wave of the pandemic, according to a study soon to be published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

In a Thursday news release, the Alberta Federation of Labour asked Albertans to leave messages at UCP MLAs offices saying no thank you for the government’s handling of COVID-19 outbreaks on Saturday. They could also leave comments on social media using #NoThanksGivenUCP

The group says that Albertans are angry that hospitals are over capacity, health-care workers are being pushed to their breaking point, surgeries are being cancelled and many schools are facing outbreaks in the news release.

“The UCP refuse to take needed actions to keep Albertans safe,” says the release.

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J’Val Shuster says she and her staff at Devour Catering will be delivering turkey dinners to 200 nurses, doctors and health-care staff at four Calgary hospitals on Sunday and more meals are to be delivered in the days to come. People have been paying $15 a meal through the company’s “I See You ICU” drive.

“We’ve had over 1,700 people purchase a total of 6,000meals for doctors, nurses and staff,” Shuster said.

“Nurses (have said) even if they don’t get the meals, they’re very uplifted just by the fact that people are showing their support and wanting to do something.”

Shuster said she began the idea last month as she struggled to keep her business afloat. Support has been so overwhelming, she said, she has had to temporarily stop taking meal orders.

“We’re going to co-ordinate with all the departments at what frequency they want the remaining ordered meals. We can’t prepare 6,000 meals at once.”

Betty Wade of Calgary purchased 50 dinners for health-care staff.

“I’m absolutely thankful for them, particularly now in this fourth wave,” said the retiree.

“They’ll have something at the doorstep when they leave their shift that makes them realize that they are appreciated more than they know by so many people. We are very, very thankful for every one of them doing their job saving lives as best they can in this situation.”

She recalled that at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic many cheered and clapped for workers on the streets.

“But there’s a difference now … it’s the intensity in the ICU and in the hospitals,” she said.

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Wait times down as Calgarians stay away from emergency rooms

Calgary Herald 10 October, 2021 - 06:40pm

The head of emergency medicine at the Cumming School of Medicine said while no detailed study has been completed, the shortened wait times are likely the result of Calgarians staying away from emergency departments amid fears during a fourth wave of COVID-19 that has pushed hospitals to their limits.

“There’s so much media coverage of what’s going on. People see the overwhelmed ICU on TV and many people aren’t able to distinguish that from an overwhelmed emergency department.

“We’ve tried to send messaging that it’s safe here, that you don’t have to worry. But people are arguably thinking twice about coming in because they’re afraid of contracting (COVID-19).”

When Lang talked to Postmedia Thursday afternoon, there was only a 30-minute wait at the emergency departments at both the Rockyview and Peter Lougheed hospitals. These waits would typically be measured in hours, not minutes.

There’s a real concern Calgarians aren’t seeking treatment for significant illness, the emergency doctor said. The situation mirrors a dip seen during the first wave of the pandemic, when Alberta Health Services logged a 41 per cent drop in emergency visits.

During that first wave, Lang said he knows of patients who did not seek treatment for strokes and complications from surgeries, among other things.

“If people were on the fence and weren’t sure if they needed to come into the emergency for their problem, this situation might have pushed them to their family doctor or to another option,” Lang said. “But with our current staffing, if you do come, you won’t wait long.”

AHS was unable to provide updated statistics on emergency visits.

The situation in emergency rooms is a stark contrast from Alberta’s intensive-care units, which have expanded capacity significantly to care for an influx of mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients during the fourth wave.

As of Saturday afternoon there were 300 patients in ICUs across the province, the “vast majority” of whom had COVID-19, AHS said. Alberta has 374 ICU beds, 201 of which were added as surge capacity during the fourth wave.

ICU capacity is currently at 80 per cent province-wide, and at 78 per cent in the Calgary zone. The province is operating at 173 per cent of its typical ICU capacity, however.

Lang said he suspects emergency room visits will remain down until Alberta’s COVID-19 situation stabilizes. But he urged Calgarians who need care to seek it out.

“It’s not like you’re waiting in the waiting room for two or three hours until a bed opens up. We have lots of empty beds,” he said. “We’re really worried people are sitting at home and they’re not coming in when they need to come in.”

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