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Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary to open heated trailer next to busy ER

A heated trailer outside of the emergency department at the Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary has been dropped off and will be open to patients early next month.

The move comes amid a surge in children suffering from respiratory illness, leading to wait times of up to 18 hours at the hospital earlier this month.

Health officials say in-patient units at both the Alberta Children's Hospital and the Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton were at or over 100 per cent of their normal capacity.

"We have seen an early and significant burden of viral infections. It's a combination of RSV, COVID-19, Influenza and just regular cold viruses that are circulating strong and early," said Dr. Eddy Lang, the department head of emergency services in the Calgary Zone.

Lang says a shortage of children's medication is also exacerbating the issue and he believes the children's sickness surge will continue for the next three to six weeks.

"On the pediatric side, it's quite dramatic because we're seeing children with RSV infections who are coming in with critically low oxygen levels that are much more common and frequent than we've ever seen before," Lang said.

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.

It calls the additional space "a comfort measure to help with crowding and weather conditions," but notes it won't be used as a primary treatment area.

AHS also confirms it has reached out to health unions about the possibility of requiring overtime and redeploying staff to the children's hospital, if the situation gets worse.

Although the hospital has reached 100 per cent capacity, it can operate beyond that demand at peak rates, AHS says, and the emergency provisions have not been triggered at this point.

Lang says the increase of children needing emergency room care isn't limited to just the children's hospital, with other hospitals seeing demand up by about 15 per cent as well.

"Children are not only coming to see emergency physicians, coming in droves at the children's hospitals. But we're also seeing far more children than we usually do at the non-children's hospitals," he said.

Health officials said in mid-November that the Alberta Children's Hospital emergency department had been seeing more than 300 visits a day, compared to between about 180 and 220 before the latest surge.

"No matter where patients are seen at the hospital site, they will always receive appropriate treatment. We’d like to thank the public for their patience and understanding as our staff work to see and treat patients as efficiently as possible," reads a tweet from AHS posted on Saturday.

School boards, meanwhile, have been asking for more direction as a slew of seasonal respiratory illnesses along with some COVID-19 cases have led to high classroom absentee rates and jammed children's hospitals.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, however, said last week the province is done treating every respiratory season with extreme measures.

Smith defended new rules banning mask mandates for students and ordering schools to provide in-person learning during the current wave of viral illnesses.

Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley responded to news of the trailer with a call for more resources and staff.

"This is a full-on crisis," she said in a tweet.

With files from The Canadian Press. Top Stories

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