Government & policy
Alberta coughs up $3.9M for
EDMONTON – Alberta Health Services
is spending $3.9 million to purchase 106 ventilators – boosting its
total numbers to 506 devices – to prepare for a pandemic that may hit
intensive care units this winter. If the H1N1 virus does return in a
deadlier form, it is expected to fill ICU units with patients having
The new ventilators will begin arriving later this month with the final
units expected by mid-October.
The price tag was $2 million lower than expected, as the province
negotiated a three-year province-wide contract and used money from
pre-existing project equipment budgets. Alberta Health Services CEO and
president Stephen Duckett said he’s prepared to spend more if the
“Depending on its severity, we may need to alter our current budget
strategies for reducing costs in the healthcare system in order to
ensure we are fully prepared to deal with the pandemic,” he said.
That’s despite the plan to pinch pennies in the face of the health
system’s $1-billion deficit.
Alberta Health Services budget chiefs are seeking to find 3 percent in
savings by offering early retirement packages to nurses and other
healthcare workers, as well as having its long-term care and Catholic
hospital partners find ways to cut.
The strategy is to transfer resources to fight the flu, in case of an
emergency. “We will also explore the option of scaling back
non-essential work, for example, by delaying elective surgery to free up
staff and resources to handle H1N1 cases,” Duckett said, noting he gets
updates on the situation every Tuesday.
He recently talked with people in the Australian state of Victoria,
which has about 20 percent more people than Alberta and has already seen
the flu pack a wallop during the winter. The state needed to create
another 10 to 20 beds in intensive care to accommodate the patient
“Although the admissions to hospitals are roughly the same as ordinary
flu, the admissions to ICU intensive care units are much greater, and so
we’re preparing just in case the same happens here,” Duckett said.
Hospital stays also tend to be longer with this flu strain. “We might
need to rapidly expand our intensive-care capacity.”
Dr. Gerry Predy, medical officer of health for Alberta Health Services,
said the regular flu strain typically makes five to 10 percent of the
population sick. He said he expects 15 to 20 percent of people will get
sick when the second H1N1 wave hits this fall, since few have immunity.
In the end, he said up to 35 percent of the population could get sick
over the flu season.