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Some ICU units already at capacity says nurses union

FILE - Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul's Hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the province, there’s significant concern about hospitals, and especially intensive care units, becoming overloaded.

The United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) has said many hospitals are already at peak capacity in the ICU.

President Heather Smith said that includes the Peter Lougheed and Foothills Medical centres in Calgary, which are already at 100 per cent.

“In Edmonton, we have situations where they are already in excess of 100 per cent capacity. It may be 87 as an average but, certainly, some sites have already maxed out capacity and I expect we’ll be moving to try and make more bed space.”

The average ICU capacity is hovering around 87 per cent with dozens needing the extra care and it may not take much time until more are overloaded.

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Dr. Craig Jenne at the University of Calgary said there’s a lagging effect between case numbers and people going to the ICU and it doesn’t look good.

“We’re getting beyond our optimal and our normal operating levels and this will have stresses other than physical space which includes things like staff. We need to ensure that even if we can give a bed to somebody that we have people to look after those patients. ”

He added that ICU beds are needed for other patients, not just those infected with COVID-19, including those recovering from complicated surgeries or experiencing trauma.

Jenne said a lockdown has to be on the table now with other options appearing limited.

“We have an increasing percentage of cases (that) we don’t know where they come from. What is clear from the data we are seeing in other provinces is forms of these less restrictive lockdowns are not working to blunt the curve.”

Smith added that a province-wide mask mandate should also be considered as the government has left it up to municipalities instead.

“I am personally dismayed that individuals continue to ignore the directions of medical officers of health and put themselves and others at risk, at real risk.”

Alberta is the lone province without a mask rule coming directly from the legislature.