The Northern Lights Regional Health Centre (NLRHC) issued a statement regarding its relocation plan.
The hospital decided to move Alternate Level of Care (ALC) patients to a location deemed safer and more appropriate within North Zone.
RMWB Council previously said they had concerns about the move.
Murray Crawford, Alberta Health Services (AHS) Senior Operating Officer for Area 10, said they decided on moving patients to Lac La Biche.
“Immediately after this decision was made, a letter was hand-delivered to each of the ALC patients on March 27, 2020, as well as follow up calls to each family explaining the situation. This re-location decision was made after consultation with the seniors, their respective families and physicians.”
Only once they deemed it safe did AHS determine the moving dates.
Crawford said once they assigned a case manager, AHS communicated move dates with the first move happening five days after the first notice.
“The cost of transport to their new facility was covered by AHS as will their return transport back to Fort McMurray when it is safe to do so.”
He also confirmed the plan did not affect the 40 residents in the hospital’s Continuing Care unit.
The temporary move was for 16 ALC patients to Lac La Biche identified by the AHS Seniors Placement team at the hospital.
The team placed four patients in Fort McMurray and one returned home to family.
Crawford said they relocated seven of the 11 ALC patients, with four at the NLRHC awaiting transfer.
“Five clients were transferred either by AHS air or ground ambulance. Two seniors were transported via Access Handi-Bus, accompanied by a Licensed Practical Nurse. The bus stopped along the way for rest and washroom breaks as needed.”
Crawford said the hospital anticipates a surge in COVID-19 cases in need of medical support and hospitalization.
They must ensure the safety of all its patients, in particular those most vulnerable on the acute treatment floors.
He said relocating patients is part of protecting them from the dangers of COVID-19.
“These moves will also create much-needed bed space in our hospital to accommodate expected patients with COVID-19. This decision was not unique to Fort McMurray ALC patients. Moving ALC patients out of acute hospitals and into available continuing care spaces is an important part of our AHS planning province-wide.”
Crawford added such relocations help reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for ALC patients.
He said he looks forward to bringing them back to Fort McMurray once it is safe and appropriate.
“Our patients’ safety and comfort is our priority. We have been transparent in our discussions about this issue and have reached out to local residents and agencies when concerns are raised.”
Crawford said residents with questions or concerns may get in touch with the local administration.