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AHS releases Critical Care Triage Protocol in case healthcare system becomes overwhelmed

Last Updated Apr 30, 2021 at 7:18 pm MDT

A medical worker attends to a patient suffering from COVID-19 inside the isolation area in the emergency ward at the hospital in Bochnia, Poland, Sunday, April 4, 2021. European countries scrambled Monday, April 5, to tamp down a surge in COVID-19 cases and ramp up vaccinations, hoping to spare hospitals from becoming overwhelmed by the pandemic's latest deadly wave of infections. (AP Photo/Omar Marques)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – Alberta Health Services (AHS) has released a 50-page document outlining their triage protocol in the event the health care system becomes overrun with people needing intensive care treatment.

“Alberta Health Services has developed protocols to guide the allocation of critical care resources should the provincial health care system be overwhelmed and thus unable to meet the demand of the current COVID-19 pandemic, future pandemics, or any other predictable health crisis,” the document says.

The triage protocols are a way to guide health-care professionals in deciding who receives treatment and who doesn’t once there is not enough critical care resources for everyone.

When activated, health-care workers would prioritize patients who have the greatest likelihood of overall survival.

If there is a “Major Surge” and surge bed capacity reaches 90 per cent, ICU eligibility will be based on patients with a greater than 20 per cent chance of surviving for the next year.

If there is a “Large Scale Surge” where bed capacity reaches 95 per cent, assessments will be based on those with greater than 50 per cent of surviving.

“Triage is not about withholding care from patients, it is about providing the best care to the greatest number of people,” the document says.

“These protocols ensure that such decisions are made in an ethical, fair, and structured way and not ad hoc.”

A “first come, first-served basis” may be used if there are several patients who arrive with an equal likelihood of surviving.

“If two or more patients with equal survival likelihood arrive at the same time, random selection will be used,” the document states.

AHS has not needed to initiate these protocols as it has adequate capacity for hospitalized and ICU patients. If needed, they can expand capacity to increase the total number of ICU spaces to 425.

On Friday, it was announced 649 people were in hospital with COVID-19, 151 of those being treated in the ICU.