Bracing for an spike in COVID-19 cases, Alberta Health Services (AHS) are finding ways to expand their medical capacity, including freeing up hospital beds and contacting private clinics.

Macleod Trail Surgical Centre got a call from AHS asking about the plastic surgery clinic’s beds and medical equipment in case hospitals become overwhelmed with patients.

“We have five recovery beds if they need,” said Dr. Paul Whidden who co-owns the business with Dr.Douglas Humphreys.

“We have two surgical beds, we have an anesthetic machine, we have like nine monitors that could be used,” Whidden added.

Alberta Health Services is first focussing on freeing up hospital beds by cancelling elective surgeries.

“Health care workers that have been in the system for many years are telling me that they have never seen as many beds open in our facilities as there are right now,” said Dr. Mark Joffe with AHS.

On Tuesday afternoon, Alberta had more than 1,000 beds blocked across the province in preparation for the anticipated increase in COVID-19 patients who may require hospitalization. AHS said the goal is to be at 2,250 beds available for coronavirus patients by April 15.

Alberta’s hospital capacity was at 77 per cent in its 16 major urban hospitals. Normally at this time of year those facilities are over capacity at 103-104 per cent.

In British Columbia, the Vancouver Convention Centre is being transformed into a backup medical facility with nearly 300 beds for non-COVID-19 patients. New York’s Jacob K. Javit’s Convention Centre was transformed into a medical space too and a field hospital was set up this week in Central Park, in anticipation of a surge of COVID-19 cases.

Calgary’s Convention Centre has transformed as well, but not with hospital beds.

The space is ready for members of the city’s vulnerable population to move in.

“The TELUS Convention Centre was selected as additional shelter space to help people who are not infected with COVID-19,” said Alberta’s community and social services minister, Rajan Sawhney, on Facebook.

“The first clients are expected to move into the Convention Centre in the next couple of days.”