Alberta Health Services is transferring six patients out of Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Grande Prairie, Alta., to neighbouring health-care centres, to make room for an increase of COVID-19 patients requiring acute care and intensive care unit spaces at the facility.
The health authority announced it would transfer up to nine patients Sunday on social media.
The decision will see patients requiring non-urgent care directed from the hospital's emergency department to neighbouring health-care facilities.
"Patient safety is of utmost importance to us and we only make these decisions when absolutely necessary," the health authority said in a series of Twitter posts. "When it is safe and appropriate to do so, AHS will work to transfer these patients back to the QEII."
The hospital began transferring patients Saturday evening, and expected to have six patients transferred by end of day Sunday, a spokesperson said.
The patients, who are being transported by ground and air ambulance teams, are being provided options for their continuing care, including the choice to be discharged into the care of loved ones due to the increasing pressure on the health-care system, AHS spokesperson Logan Clow said, adding that efforts were being made to keep patients as close as possible to their loved ones.
"This measure ensures the QEII has additional acute care beds spaces to provide care for COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization," Clow said.
COVID-19 case numbers have been rising in the Grande Prairie area and throughout the North zone, Clow added, resulting in an increase of hospitalizations.
As of Sunday, there were five patients in intensive care unit beds at the hospital.
The emergency department remains open with patients continuing to be assessed.
"The Queen Elizabeth II Hospital remains a safe place to receive care — there is no increased risk to patients coming to the hospital," AHS said on Twitter.
"Any patient with symptoms, or who has tested positive for COVID-19, is isolated and treated in designated rooms."
The health authority thanked surrounding health-care centres and medical staff, as well as all patients and their families "for their support and understanding."
Majority COVID-19 patients in ICU not vaccinated
Alberta had 9,655 active cases across the province and 427 active cases in the city of Grande Prairie as of Friday.
The province reported over 1,000 new COVID-19 cases for the third day in a row on Friday, and as of that last report, was leading the country in daily new COVID cases.
There were 336 people being treated in hospital, 74 of whom were in intensive care beds Friday.
All but two of those in intensive care unit beds for COVID (97.3 per cent) were unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, and 77.1 per cent of non-ICU patients were unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said Friday on Twitter.
Vaccination rates in Grande Prairie are behind the provincial rates of vaccination, with 49.3 per cent of the population immunized with at least one dose of vaccine, and 42.6 per cent fully vaccinated.
As of Friday, 77.7 per cent of eligible Albertans have received at least one dose of vaccine, or 66.1 per cent of the total population, while 69.3 per cent of the those over the age of 12 are vaccinated. About 59 per cent of the total population is fully vaccinated.
Grande Prairie is located about 455 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.