Health officials on P.E.I. say the number of people being treated in hospital right now for COVID-19 is manageable, but there are plans in place if more people need help.
Currently, seven people are being treated for COVID-19 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown — one person is being treated in the intensive care unit.
It's those beds — in the intensive care unit — that are in more limited supply.
"We've been planning for this for the last two years, and it's tough going into our third year with it," said Corinne Rowswell, chief operating officer of Health P.E.I. "What we've had in place all along has been a surge plan. So we do have plans to increase our capacity as we need it."
That plan includes "certain triggers" that would cause officials to activate things beyond where they are currently.
This means the hospital could close certain services to reallocate beds and staff to the COVID-19 unit if needed.
Officials with Health P.E.I. said as long as there is enough staff for them — there are 20 ICU beds available in the province, and more that could be converted if needed.
Right now, any patients in need of COVID-19 treatment in the ICU would go to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital where a dedicated group of staff care for them.
That will continue as long as there are enough beds, and after that patients could be sent to the Prince County Hospital.
Our capacity isn't unlimited, obviously, nobody has the type of health-care system that can surge endlessly. — Corinne Rowswell
If those beds fill up, patients would be transferred off-Island.
Rowswell said Health P.E.I. would begin by trying to get patients ICU beds in neighbouring provinces —but could have to look further, depending on how our neighbouring provinces are doing in terms of hospitalizations.
But Rowswell said officials don't think that's a scenario the province will be dealing with.
More known about COVID-19 treatment
"We know a lot more about COVID now than we did at the beginning in terms of what we use to treat patients," she said. "We know that there is more available to treat COVID patients now so we're not anticipating that we're going to be at that capacity."
Health P.E.I. says it could create more than 180 beds in hospitals on the Island for just COVID-19 patients if needed. There are a total of 393 acute care spaces across all of the Island's hospitals.
Health P.E.I. said it can reduce services to free up staff and equipment, as needed, as the pandemic continues.
Measures we have in place to blunt or slow the impact are very important for Islanders to follow. — Corinne Rowswell
Rowswell said all plans depend on having enough staff to keep beds open.
Right now, there are up to 30 health-care staff in isolation who've tested positive for COVID-19.
Another 20 to 30 are close contacts and are using the test-to-stay policy.
"We've got plans in place, our capacity isn't unlimited, obviously, nobody has the type of health-care system that can surge endlessly," Rowswell said.
"So what measures we have in place to blunt or slow the impact are very important for Islanders to follow."