Alberta doctors invite premier, health minister to visit ICU: ‘We need you to see’


Alberta ER doctors have issued an “urgent” invitation to the premier and health minister to visit an ICU in person to witness “the unfathomable horrors we face in the hospitals everyday.”

In a letter sent Monday, Oct. 4, the section of emergency medicine of the Alberta Medical Association asked Jason Kenney and Jason Copping to “visit an Edmonton-area ICU as soon as possible to see it for yourselves.”

The letter is signed by Dr. Paul Parks, the head of emergency medicine for the Alberta Medical Association. Parks said in late September that major components of triage have already begun in Alberta, even though the protocol hasn’t officially been implemented.

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The group said Tuesday it had not received a response from the premier or health minister yet. Global News has also reached out to the province about this invitation. The article will be updated when a response is received.

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Kenney, Copping, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and AHS CEO Dr. Verna Yiu are scheduled to provide a COVID-19 update Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. It will be streamed live in this article post.

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“Maintaining distance is necessary to get through this pandemic, but when policy leaders maintain distance from the hospitals where policy is implemented, an adaptive mechanism becomes harmful,” the letter reads.

“To break the disconnect, we urgently need you to see what we are experiencing.”

There have been more than 1,000 new daily cases of COVID-19 for weeks and Alberta Health Services has had to reassign staff to handle the surge of intensive care patients. There have been mass cancellations of non-urgent surgeries as a result.

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“From a distance, it’s easier to look at numbers on a page and persuade yourself that there is still space, because you can’t see the maneuvering behind increasing those numbers,” the letter continues. “Surge ICU beds are metastasizing into every other part of the hospital, rapidly crowding out every other function our hospital should be able to serve; we are only able to find more space because so many are dying, and urgent surgeries have been postponed indefinitely.

“Even as we create more unconventional beds, we cannot create an endless ability for our health-care workers to carry this impossible burden.

“We will be paying the price of this physical and moral suffering for years to come.

“Unfortunately, we will see the immediate consequences in the days and weeks to come, with staff simply unable to maintain the standard of care necessary to keep such gravely ill patients alive.

“Health-care workers are doing all they can with every fibre of their being, but human capacity is not an infinitely renewable resource,” the letter reads.

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Intensive care physicians, emergency ward doctors, the executive of the Alberta Medical Association and the Canadian Medical Association have called for a lockdown in the province to try to stem the tide of COVID-19 patients.

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Kenney said last week he wants to see if recent health measures, including an indoor mask mandate, gathering restrictions and a form of vaccine passport, would boost vaccination rates.

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On Monday afternoon, Alberta Health said the province had 20,674 active cases of the disease, 459 more than there were on Friday afternoon.

Alberta Health said Monday that 2,752 people in the province have now died of COVID-19 — 21 more than on Friday.

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As of Monday, there were 1,079 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, 257 of whom were in ICU.

Dr. Verna Yiu, head of Alberta Health Services, said Sept. 23 one key reason intensive care wards have not been overwhelmed is because enough COVID-19 patients are dying to free up bed space.

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“It’s tragic that we are only able to keep pace with some of these sort of numbers because, in part, some of our ICU patients have passed away,” she said on Thursday.

Yiu said the ICU admission numbers are highs the province hasn’t seen in the three previous waves of COVID-19, nor in Alberta’s history. She said every day, the province reaches a new high.

“We need you to see, to hear, to understand what is happening in our hospitals right now,” the letter states.

“The distance between numbers on a page and the reality inside these walls is impossible to bridge unless you can see for yourselves what we have been trying to communicate to your government and the public.

“Alberta is at the edge of a precipice, but it is a precipice that right now only we can see. Please let us show it to you.”

Hinshaw, Yiu, Dr. David Zygun (AHS Edmonton zone medical director), Dr. Shelley Duggan (AHS Edmonton zone clinical department head) and Jonathan Koelhi (chief of staff for the ministry of health) were also sent the letter.


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