Efforts are underway to increase hospital bed capacity in Alberta. 

Premier Jason Kenney, health minister Jason Copping, Alberta Health Services (AHS) CEO, Dr. Verna Yiu and chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, were all in attendance during Thursday’s update on the current COVID-19 situation. 

According to the premier, there are early indications that Alberta has hit and surpassed the peak of Omicron infections – pointing to wastewater monitoring data in which 15 of the 19 communities where wastewater is monitored for the virus is “trending in the right direction.” 

However, despite the positive news, there continues to be growing pressure in hospitals, particularly regarding non-ICU beds. Alberta hit a record 1,131 hospitalizations on Thursday.  

Work is underway to build additional hospital bed capacity in ICU and non-ICU settings. Beginning Monday (Jan.24) or sooner, some beds in pandemic response units will be ready at Edmonton’s Kaye Clinic and the South Health Campus in Calgary. 

Patients moved to a pandemic response unit could be recovering from COVID-19 and deemed at low risk of transmitting the virus or be patients with less complex healthcare needs. 

Additionally, AHS and Primary Care Network partners have opened or are planning virtual call-in lines or COVID-19 clinics in select communities that will be available to screen, assess and appropriately direct people with mild and moderate COVID-19 symptoms. 

Yiu called Omicron’s speed ‘concerning,’ adding COVID hospitalizations have increased by about 40 per cent over the last week and have yet to peak. 

“The recent surges in hospital and ICU cases, coupled with the fact that we are seeing more of our own healthcare workers become sick or have to isolate, means that our healthcare system is facing yet another serious challenge. I remain grateful to our incredible teams who continue to provide quality care so that we can meet this challenge.” 

The province reported 3,527 new cases of the virus in the last day; currently, there are 1,131 people in hospital, including 108 in intensive care. Eight new deaths were reported on Thursday, bringing the total to 3,421 since the beginning of the pandemic.