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AHS halts respite care at Rotary Flames House to address Alberta Children's Hospital struggle

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Respite admissions at Rotary Flames House in Calgary will be paused and staff redeployed to help with the ongoing struggle at Alberta Children's Hospital.
 
Alberta Health Services confirmed in a statement on Friday the children’s hospital continues to experience "sustained high volumes of acutely ill patients requiring care in our emergency department, pediatric intensive care and inpatient units," and that the health authority has "made the difficult decision to temporarily pause respite admissions at Rotary Flames House and redeploy our staff to assist in supporting patients at the hospital."
 
In its statement, AHS said it will work with families to see all respite care patients discharged from Rotary Flames House by Dec. 6.
 
Other services at Rotary Flames House, including palliative, end of life care and grief support, will temporarily move to the children's hospital with the staff.
 
"We understand this temporary pause in respite services may be concerning and difficult for our clients and families. We will do our best to resume this important service as soon as possible," AHS said in its statement.
 
"These are extraordinary times, and we thank Albertans in advance for their support and understanding."
 
AHS says it has never had to do this before, and it hopes it won't have to do this for long.
 
This change brings enough staff to open six inpatient beds in a short-stay unit at the children's hospital.
 
"We're opening up more capacity at the hospital, so those staff that are working at the Rotary Flames House will now be caring for our highest-priority, acutely ill children that need our care right now," said Margaret Fullerton, senior operating officer at Alberta Children's Hospital.
 
Respite patients are medically stable but need a high level of care.
 
Experts say moving from a place like Rotary Flames House can have a big impact on families.
 
"It's (a) home-like environment. In acute care, it is like a hospital and there's no getting away with it," said Rayne Johnson, a death doula.
 
"There's more limitations, usually, in acute care for visiting."
 
The move comes amid a surge in young patients suffering from respiratory illness, leading to wait times of up to 18 hours at the children's hospital last month and a struggle to keep up since.
 
Both the children's hospital in Calgary and the Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton have been at or over 100 per cent of their normal capacity, health officials say.
 
A heated trailer has also been set up outside the emergency department at the Calgary facility.
 
AHS says the trailer in Calgary will be used when the emergency department sees surges in patient volume and will be monitored in the same way as the emergency department waiting area.

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