Critical Care Triage Protocol

Strategic Clinical Networks (SCN)

Alberta Health Services (AHS) developed Critical Care Triage Protocols (adult and paediatric) as a planned and pre-determined province wide approach to guide our response should the demand for life-sustaining critical care support become greater than the available resources either during a pandemic, or any other disaster that has the potential to overwhelm the healthcare system

AHS has never enacted the critical care triage protocol. Though the pressure on our ICU’s was at times severe during the COVID-19 pandemic, AHS was able to increase capacity so that all patients needing critical care received it.

The triage protocol creates an objective process to guide healthcare professionals in making the difficult determination of how to allocate resources to critically ill adult and pediatric patients when there are not enough critical care resources for everyone. These protocols ensure decisions are made in an ethical, fair, and structured way ensuring that a fair and equitable process is applied to all people of Alberta.

If activated, triage will be provincial in scope, applicable to all health facilities and critical care units in Alberta.

Without a Critical Care Triage Protocol, we believe there would be more preventable deaths because those with the best chance of survival might not get the care they require in time.

Protocols like this were developed in several jurisdictions in Canada, the U.S., and Europe at different times during the COVID-19 pandemic.

AHS is committed to exhausting all other options before activating the Critical Care Triage protocols. Mitigation measures, such as increasing capacity (beds and staff) and load levelling (transferring patients, personnel, equipment and medications) between sites and communities within the same zone, across zones within the province, and to other provinces if capacity is available, will have been exhausted prior to triage activation.

Led and operationalized by highly trained critical care physicians and staff, the protocols ensure a fair and equitable process is applied to all Albertans.

The process of development included extensive consultation with AHS clinical ethics to embed ethical guiding principles, review of literature and existing protocols in other jurisdictions, and consultation with medical specialist groups, patient and family advisory, and patient advocacy groups.

Vaccine status does not impact access to critical care in the event of enacting the protocol. AHS values the lives of all Albertans and follows Canadian standards for healthcare to provide non-judgmental healthcare to all who are in need. AHS critical care triage protocol applies to all patients considered for ICU admission.