Children now excluded from Alta. COVID-19 triage plan: AHS

Alberta is no longer planning to triage pediatric patients if its hospital system is ever overwhelmed by COVID-19.

The change, confirmed to CTV News Edmonton on Wednesday, stems from conversations with Alberta Health Service’s pediatric teams who “expressed understandable distress at potentially having to use pediatric triage,” AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson said.

Doctors and staff were informed the previous week, he added.

AHS released its critical care triage protocol in September.

It stated patients under the age of 18 may be triaged according to best chance of survival if 95 per cent or more of Alberta’s critical care surge beds were filled. The stage was the last of four levels of increasing occupancy and could also see hospitals consider discontinuing care for some patients.

Williamson said Wednesday AHS will not triage children if it ever activates the protocol.

“This step is not a change to the protocol, but a change in how we would implement the protocol should we ever need to use it. The protocol now only applies to adult patients,” he said in a statement.

The part of the protocol which would see adult triage triggered when critical care capacity is at 90 per cent has not been changed.

Officials say Alberta’s ICU admissions have plateaued just below 80 per cent; as of Tuesday morning, 300 of 376 ICU beds were being used, the majority by COVID-19 patients.

“Today, I’m a little bit more optimistic than I have been in quite a while,” AHS president and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu said that day.

“It’s still too early to suggest this is a trend, but it’s a good sign and there’s a faint silver lining to what has been a very difficult period for our health-care system.”

The total number of Alberta’s ICU beds includes 203 spaces created during the pandemic, meaning ICU admissions are at 117 per cent of the province’s normal capacity.