7 pediatric patients relocated from Stollery ICU for COVID-19 patients

·3 min read

Seven patients in the pediatric intensive-care unit (PICU) at the Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton were relocated Friday to make room for up to 12 adults with COVID-19.

The pediatric patients were moved from the third floor of the Stollery to the pediatric cardiac ICU (PCICU) on the sixth floor of the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute.

The move means patients and parents in the PICU will no longer have a private room equipped with a couch for parents to sleep on, among other amenities.

Those patients will now be in two-person rooms in the PCICU with only one visitor allowed per patient.

It also means there may not be a chair available for parents who wish to stay with their child overnight.

"We acknowledge that this will be extremely difficult for some families, and we are truly sorry for the impact this decision may have," said Alberta Health Services spokesperson Kerry Williamson in an email.

Relocation for COVID-19 cases

The relocation of patients comes the same day Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw called "another tough week for many Albertans."

The province announced 25 new deaths and 1,413 new COVID-19 cases on Friday.

The announcement comes one day after the province reported a record-breaking 30 deaths.

The 10 to 12 COVID-19 adult patients will be relocated to the PICU on Monday at the earliest "to reduce the doubling of patients in the current adult ICU environments," according to Dr. Ben Sivarajan, pediatric cardiac intensivist and medical director of PCICU at the Stollery.

He said that staff needed overflow space for the COVID-19 patients, specifically "overflow space that could be transformed into a critical care environment."

Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute
Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute

The PICU was repurposed earlier in the year during what Sivarajan called "the spring wave" of COVID-19.

The unit will once again be repurposed to have two adult patients per room.

Sivarajan has told staff to plan for the pediatric unit to be used for adult COVID-19 patients until the end of March but that the timeline could change.

The relocation of patients comes after Alberta Health Services and the Red Cross began setting up a 100-bed temporary hospital in the University of Alberta's Butterdome.

CBC News first reported earlier this month that internal documents contained plans to establish two or more Alberta field hospitals to accommodate up to 750 patients, should bricks-and-mortar hospitals become overwhelmed.

"There is no plan to staff these beds unless they are needed," Dr. Deena Hinshaw said at her daily COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday.

"This is a purely precautionary measure for use if needed in the future."

Private rooms

The PICU at the Stollery was renovated and reopened with private units with amenities for parents in 2019.

The units include a couch and a sink for parents to use while staying with their sick child.

The unit typically treats "infants and children presenting primarily with non-cardiac disease including respiratory failure, sepsis, trauma and post-operative recovery," according to AHS' website.

Parents will be allowed to stay overnight with their child at the PCICU, but AHS officials say they can't guarantee sleeping accommodations.

Sivarajan said he has spoken to some of the parents who are frustrated.

"I don't think that this current pandemic has anything other than frustration in terms of where we would like to be. They want to be with their kids, their child is going through a difficult time and we empathize with them," Sivarajan said.

The PCICU rooms are normally equipped with chairs and a couch for sleeping but most of the chairs had to be removed to make room for the second patient, he said.