As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, AHS is adjusting our response measures and supports. We continue to ensure we have the capacity to handle the anticipated surge in patients related to COVID-19.
Decisions have been made while ensuring AHS has the staff, equipment (including personal protective equipment) and beds available for any changes which may result in increased demand on our healthcare system caused by COVID-19.
We recognize that these are difficult, stressful times and that any change in service may be concerning. Our number one priority is protecting the health of Albertans, and in this extraordinary situation, we must take significant steps to do so.
- AHS will continue to increase surgical activity as part of a Surgical Recovery Plan developed and aligned with the Alberta Surgical Initiative (ASI).
- Surgical slowdowns may be necessary at some sites to support bed capacity for the pandemic, but this will be assessed daily and patients will be rebooked as quickly as possible to support overall surgical recovery.
- During the first wave of the pandemic, AHS and Covenant Health postponed non-urgent, scheduled surgeries from March 18, 2020 to May 3, 2020 to free up hospital beds in advance of an expected surge in patients. Following that period:
- All of the patient surgeries that were delayed or postponed as a result of the slowdown in the spring of 2020 were rebooked and carried out.
- Over the summer months of 2020 AHS increased surgical activity to more than 100% of average activity to replace surgical activity lost during the spring slow down.
- In the fall of 2020, a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in hospital resulted in some surgical reductions.
- Despite service reductions and the ongoing impact of the pandemic, AHS was able to complete more than 252,000 surgeries between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021.
- We are grateful for the patience of Albertans who experienced delays or postponements of their surgeries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- These delays have been necessary to ensure our health care system is prepared for COVID-19.
- Working in partnership with Alberta Health to implement the Surgical Recovery Plan, we will continue to ensure patients and families receive the surgery they need, according to best practices and target benchmarks.
- Surgical Recovery will be adjusted, as necessary, to help the health system respond to increased pressures caused by COVID-19.
- Safety is the utmost priority and increases in surgery activity will continue to occur, providing it is safe and appropriate to do so.
- We will continue to ensure emergency and urgent surgeries are maintained while steadily increasing the total number of surgeries, balancing the safety of patients and staff with the need to resume surgeries for Albertans.
- Decisions on which surgeries will proceed are based on factors including clinical assessment of need as well as the length of time waiting. These decisions are being made at the zone level and are also informed by the pandemic response to pressures experienced across the province.
- Patients will be contacted directly with a date for their surgery. If you have any questions regarding your surgical procedure itself, please contact your surgeon.
- We understand that many people will be anxious to hear from AHS about their surgery or procedure. We ask for your patience. Please do not call Health Link (811) or the health care facility for information. You will be contacted by AHS or your surgeon’s office.
- We will require all current COVID-19 public health orders and infection prevention and control standards and processes to be followed, including physical distancing, wearing a mask and following AHS visitor guidelines. https://albertahealthservices.ca/topics/Page17001.aspx
Resumption of Diagnostic Imaging Services
- During the early part of the pandemic, Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Covenant Health temporarily reduced the number of Diagnostic Imaging (DI) visits and the number of “in person” patients to Ambulatory Care Clinics.
- Diagnostic Imaging has rescheduled and served all patients who had their DI appointments postponed during the early part of the pandemic.
- Diagnostic Imaging continues to support the Alberta Surgical Initiative (ASI) requirements for imaging services to ensure that all patients are able to receive services in an appropriate time period.
- To ensure we maintain adequate resources to support the pandemic response, we continue to conduct weekly assessments and make changes as required.
- In addition to supporting the pandemic response and ASI, Diagnostic Imaging is proceeding with CT and MR Action Plans with the goal to reduce wait times for patients requiring a CT or MR scan.
- We require all current COVID-19 public health orders and infection prevention and control standards and processes to be followed, including physical distancing and wearing a mask. https://www.alberta.ca/masks.aspx
- AHS visitor guidelines must be followed. https://albertahealthservices.ca/topics/Page17001.aspx
- Patients with a scheduled appointment will receive a pre-screening phone call to assess fitness to attend appointments and will be given instructions for attendance based on provincial public health guidelines. In cases where patients cannot be reached, they will be screened upon arrival for their appointments.
- AHS continues to manage services in a way that balances the needs of our patients with public health measures. This helps us ensure we are keeping our patients and teams safe and ensures we are able to respond to increases in the number of COVID-19 patients.
- AHS continues to monitor COVID-19 rates in the community and the impact on inpatient and ICU capacity and will adjust surgical and ambulatory services as needed.
- In order to respond to the evolving COVID-19 situation, you will be contacted should there be any changes to your scheduled appointment. Your appointment may need to be rescheduled or changed to a virtual visit using phone or video call.
- If you have an upcoming appointment and need to cancel or rebook, please call the specific clinic directly. If you have an upcoming appointment and are feeling unwell, please call your health care provider ahead of your visit.
- Patients and families attending Ambulatory/Outpatient appointments must follow the AHS visitor guidelines. https://albertahealthservices.ca/topics/Page17001.aspx.
- Masks are required to be worn at all times on AHS property. This includes, but is not limited to, parking areas, elevators and while waiting to be screened. https://www.alberta.ca/masks.aspx
Zone Capacity Update
- AHS has developed a Provincial Acute Care Capacity Plan for the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan is based on available suitable capacity and the availability of staff and physicians to care for critical care (ICU) patients.
- AHS is carefully monitoring capacity and is responding to the demand for critical care to assist health care facilities that may become overwhelmed.
- The Provincial Acute Care Capacity Plan for the COVID-19 pandemic has four main components: beds, equipment and supplies, staffing and contingency.
- AHS uses a system-wide approach to create space where it is needed most. This may include transferring patients between facilities to make beds available. Transferring patients between facilities or zones is an established practice that is safe and well planned.
- AHS uses an early warning system based on data to anticipate upcoming needs for inpatient and critical care beds. This system anticipates needs two weeks into the future.