Alberta Health Services launches overcapacity protocols

  • Jan. 12, 2011 4:00 p.m.

New province wide overcapacity protocols aimed at reducing peak pressures in emergency departments (EDs) and other parts of the health system during periods of high patient volume are now in effect.

“Reducing peak pressures in EDs and elsewhere in the system requires hospital, community and system-wide strategies. This initiative involves all areas of the health system working together to ensure patients receive timely access to care and that the sickest patients are not left waiting for care,” said Dr. Chris Eagle, acting president and CEO of Alberta Health Services (AHS).

The overcapacity protocols respond to Alberta Health and Wellness Minister Gene Zwozdesky’s earlier requests and directives; and involve every AHS zone and the major hospitals across Alberta, including Red Deer.

The overcapacity protocols build on past practices by setting new targets, that when reached, will trigger immediate actions to reduce emergency department wait times by improving the ability to move admitted patients out of EDs on an as needed urgent basis to avoid critical over-capacity situations. The intent is to approach emergency department pressures as a hospital, zone and system-wide issue.

The overcapacity protocols free up care spaces for patients in emergency departments who require hospital admission. Patients might be asked to share a room; to move to a different room or facility; to receive ongoing care in the community; or to be admitted to a hospital unit and given a stretcher or chair in a temporary location.

“Patients will receive care in the most appropriate place available at that time, even if it’s not the ideal location,” said Dr. Cheri Nijssen-Jordan, AHS senior medical lead and an emergency room physician. “We expect the protocols will address the concerns of Albertans by increasing access for patients and providing safe, timelier care.”

The overcapacity protocols are part of a larger strategy to reduce emergency department and health system pressures and will evolve over time based on feedback from staff and physicians.