As part of its relaunch strategy, the Alberta government has developed a plan to lift some restrictions on non-urgent surgeries and other regulated professional health services.
As Alberta continues to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections, the province is ready to lift some of the restrictions on non-urgent scheduled day surgeries in regions where hospital and clinic capacity and the rate of new COVID-19 infections does not present a significant risk. A carefully controlled and phased approach will be used, with the most urgent patients and those waiting the longest receiving care first.
“Many Albertans have had to delay important non-urgent scheduled procedures in order for us to ensure our health-care system was prepared for an influx of patients with COVID-19. Thanks to the measures our government and AHS have taken, and the hard work and dedication of front-line health-care workers, our health-care system now has the capacity to begin resuming some of these procedures. Together, we will move forward, get patients the care they need, surround vulnerable Albertans with a ring of defence and build back our province one step at a time.” Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health
The first priority will be to treat patients who would be at the highest risk if their surgery was further delayed and those who have been waiting longest. AHS has created a centralized booking system, and will contact patients on wait-lists to reschedule procedures. As procedures ramp up, the province will continue to evaluate and determine additional procedures that can resume, such as short-term overnight stays.
“The safety of our patients, staff and physicians will always be our priority. We will relaunch day surgeries in a strategic and thoughtful way and gradually add additional procedures and volumes. We will balance this relaunch with the ongoing response to COVID-19, and continually evaluate as we move forward.” Dr. Verna Yiu, president and chief executive officer, Alberta Health Services
In addition to resuming some non-urgent surgeries, independent regulated health professionals, such as chiropractors, physiotherapists, psychologists and other community providers, including optometrists, audiologists and dieticians, are also permitted to resume operations as long as they are able to follow Alberta Health guidance to limit transmission in these settings.
The Government of Alberta is working closely with the professional colleges that govern allied health professionals in Alberta to develop guidelines for their members who choose to resume operations. This includes guidelines related to physical distancing, patient screening, care of patients with COVID-19, use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning procedures. In the meantime, as these guidelines are being developed, health professionals should follow Alberta Health guidelines on safe practices. Each clinic or practitioner will be responsible for determining their ability to keep themselves, their patients and staff safe.
All other existing public health measures remain in place to stop the spread of COVID-19. Albertans must face relaunch and recovery with the same focus, discipline and resilience they have shown throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The most important measure Albertans can take to prevent respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, is to practise good hygiene.
This includes cleaning your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, avoiding touching your face, coughing or sneezing into your elbow or sleeve, and disposing of tissues appropriately.
Any individual exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 should take the AHS self-assessment and get tested if instructed to do so. Symptoms include:
A new cough or worsening of a chronic cough
New or worsening shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Sore throat or painful swallowing
Stuffy or runny nose
Muscle or joint aches
Feeling unwell in general, or new fatigue or severe exhaustion
Gastrointestinal symptoms including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or unexplained loss of appetite
Loss of sense of smell or taste
Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye
A separate self-assessment tool is available for health-care and shelter workers, enforcement and first responders. After completing the form, there is no need to call 811.
Resuming non-urgent surgeries and allied health services are elements of Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy that must be in place before Alberta can begin to safely remove public health restrictions. For more information, visit alberta.ca/covid-19.
Provincial Press Release May 4, 2020 @ 3:47 PM