About 15,000 surgeries were cancelled in Alberta’s fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic as surging infections overwhelmed the province’s health-care system late summer into the fall.
Health Minister Jason Copping announced this figure in the legislature Thursday, adding that 30,000 surgeries were cancelled in the three previous waves combined. Copping said the health system had largely caught up on the previous backlog in August when cases surged again.
“It is challenging dealing with COVID. But our system can respond to that,” he said. “It is incredibly unfortunate that we’ve had to cancel more surgeries to be able to deal with the fourth wave, but we are working on a plan not only to be able to get caught up at this point in time, but to be able to show Albertans how we can actually get caught up and then exceed moving forward.”
Copping announced cancer surgeries were no longer being postponed at a news conference on Wednesday.
For weeks , the NDP has been demanding the government tell the public how many surgeries have been cancelled. In a news release Thursday, the NDP said the cancellations were caused by “the government’s failure to act during the onset of the fourth wave.”
NDP health critic David Shepherd, in the release, accused Copping of hiding the number of cancelled surgeries until the last day of the house’s session before the break, criticizing them for avoiding answering their questions.
“It is heartbreaking to think of 15,000 Albertans and their families and the stress they were forced to endure because of this government’s failure to act when it mattered most,” he said in the release.
The NDP has been demanding the government have an all-party committee to “investigate the failure of the UCP government,” reads the release.
In response to the opposition’s questions about the premier’s absence in August, Copping said in question period Thursday that the move to managing COVID-19 as endemic in July was too soon.
“But then we did take action when things changed. We responded to the fourth wave by bringing in the (restriction exemption program) and we also brought in a number of other measures,” he said.
“Those measures are working. I’m pleased to say, Mr. Speaker, that for the past five weeks numbers have been coming down, the number of ICU cases have been coming down … we need to continue to focus on that and we will.”
Cases began rising toward the end of the summer as most public health measures had been removed in July . Members of Alberta’s medical community spoke out for weeks, warning the system could collapse , before the province brought in the vaccine passport system mid-September.
Active cases fall
The number of active cases of COVID-19 are continuing to fall across the province: 6,515 by Thursday.
Of these, there are 1,468 in the Edmonton Zone, 1,771 in the Calgary Zone, 1,402 in the North Zone, 1,176 in the Central Zone, and 710 in the South Zone.
Province-wide, there were 516 new cases of COVID-19 and 12,388 tests were completed the previous day.
Hospitalizations dipped to 677 including 146 patients being treated in ICU. Four deaths were also announced.
– With files from Ashley Joannou