‘Happy to be here’: N.L. health-care workers help expand Fort McMurray’s ICU

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Jennifer Richard didn’t hesitate when the Alberta government called for help. A critical care nurse practitioner from St. Johns, NL, is one of a seven-person team assisting COVID-19 patients at the Northern Lights Regional Health Center in Fort McMurray.

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“It’s no secret that Fort McMurray and Newfoundland and Labrador have very close ties. I have friends who are in the area,” Richard said.

“I know some of the team members also have family here so there are definitely close ties that make it feel like home.”

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Richard said the rest of the team includes three registered nurses, an anesthesiologist and a family medicine physician. He said the nurses would stay at Fort McMurray for at least three weeks.

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“We will of course have to keep in touch with our own province and continue to reevaluate their needs in the ICU to make sure we don’t need to go back home, but we have committed to three weeks. “

The northern Alberta hospital has been severely affected during the fourth wave. ICU capacity has been expanded from six beds to 19 at Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie, two of the area’s leading hospitals. At present Fort McMurray has 11 ICU beds up from five beds. On Wednesday afternoon, the ICU capacity in the North Zone was 79 percent less than 100 percent a day earlier.

Dr. Verna Yiu, President and CEO of Alberta Health Services, said during a COVID-19 update on Tuesday, “We see that many patients require high levels of care from our regional communities, where vaccination rates are low. “

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“Since September 1, approximately 290 Albertans have been transferred between regions due to the high number of patients in need of care. … We typically move patients from the North, South and Central regions to Edmonton and Calgary. are.”

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Yiu says the Newfoundland and Labrador team at Fort McMurray has allowed two additional ICU beds at the Northern Lights Regional Health Center.

“All the patients who are admitted to the ICU (at Fort McMurray) have not been vaccinated and are very ill,” Richard said. “The age demographic is very young – I’d say mainly in the 40s and 50s.”

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This is not Richard’s first trip out of the province to help with the COVID-19 health care response. She was also part of a team of health care workers stationed in Ontario last spring. He said the difference this time is that the vaccine is now widely available.

“I’ve had the opportunity to talk to some nurses and they’re exhausted,” she said.

“They are feeling stressed and they are feeling the pressure now and they are very open about how tired they are. So while we are here we have to hope for some new enthusiasm and energy and morale in the unit. It’s a pleasure to be here.”

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