Mayor concerned about plan to transfer elderly people from Fort McMurray hospital during COVID-19 crisis

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Mayor of Wood Buffalo says he has written to the Alberta Minister of Health expressing concerns about the removal of seniors from a Fort McMurray hospital to ensure there is enough beds to be ready to receive potential COVID-19 cases.

“It has been brought to the attention of council that, in order to provide adequate beds, Alberta Health Services is proposing to move seniors from the Northern Lights Regional Health Center to outside locations Wood Buffalo, “said Mayor Don Scott in a statement to the Regional Municipality of The Wood Buffalo website on Sunday.

“We recognize that the movement of our seniors may be necessary to ensure their safety and well-being,” he added. “However, with my board colleagues, I am deeply concerned about this action for a variety of reasons.”

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Scott said he was concerned about a potential increase in “morbidity” for seniors when they moved, that he heard “that patients can wait as little as two hours’ notice” if a plan to move them is moving forward even if there is no current case of COVID-19 in the hospital, and “a lack of clarity on how patients are resettled, and how patients and families are involved in the process. “

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Scott also expressed concern that moving the elderly could increase costs for families, and is concerned that these patients would have sufficient resources after such a move.

” [There’s also] lack of clarity on the return of older adults to the home; Will a return take place when the restrictions are lifted? Will a return be delayed until the Willow Square Continuing Care Center is completed and put into service? “

Scott said that in his letter to Minister of Health Tyler Shandro, which he wrote on behalf of the board, he asked that if patients are moved, health officials “individually assess each move for the elderly ”, Ensure that physicians are included in these assessments and follow their recommendations and“ strictly adhere to the Patient First strategy and its commitments around “every interaction, every initiative and every investment”. ”

In a statement released to Global News on Monday, AHS said: “On Friday, three seniors who were waiting for a continuing care space in the community were discharged from acute care beds from the Northern Lights Regional Health Center to a continuing care center in The deer lake . ”

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“This decision was made after consulting their doctors, and only when it was deemed safe and appropriate to move them,” said the statement. “The families of the elderly were consulted on the holidays.

“Moving elderly people out of hospitals and into available continuing care spaces is an important part of AHS planning, in preparation for the expected surge in COVID-19 patients.”



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AHS added that “it is imperative to free up space in our hospitals.”

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“We know that we [need] approximately 2,500 beds across the province to ensure that we can provide care to patients with COVID-19. We need to find that space to make sure our hospitals are not overwhelmed, ”the statement said.

“Moving elderly people out of the hospital and to a more suitable space will free up beds for COVID-19 patients, while reducing the risk that these elderly people will be exposed to the virus during their stay in hospital.” “

Scott said the issue of removing seniors from the hospital is “an urgent matter” for him and the counselors.

“Our region was built through the hard work and commitment of our seniors, and they are an integral part of the past, present and future of Wood Buffalo,” he said.

“During this public health crisis, it is essential that we are conscious of doing what is best for them and their families.”



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AHS said that “every effort will be made” to possibly back off the patients if that is what they want, and do it as soon as possible.

“These are extraordinary times and we are simply unable to provide health care as we usually do,” said AHS.

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