Doctors warn Kenney of hospital system crash if province does not bring in stricter COVID-19 restrictions

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More than 50 Alberta doctors and nurses have signed an open letter to Premier Jason Kenney calling for stricter restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the province.

The group warns that if the province doesn’t institute strict public health measures similar to those implemented in the first wave, thousands of Albertans of all ages will become seriously ill, maximizing the numbers of those with long-term disability due to COVID, crashing the hospital system.

“It is the constitutional responsibility and moral duty of the Government of Alberta to protect the health and lives of Albertans as a priority,” the letter says, adding that the province now has the highest number of new cases per week of any province or state in North America and the highest number of active cases by population of any province in Canada.

“The numbers of new cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions are rapidly increasing and have now exceeded the previous peak numbers seen last December,” it says.

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At a press conference Monday, Premier Jason Kenney promised new restrictions for the province would be announced on Tuesday but offered no details. At the time he said Alberta has similar restrictions as British Columbia and Saskatchewan but the difference between the provinces appears to be “behavioural.”

“At the end of the day, what’s required is a broad public buy-in to the restrictions that are in place,” he said. “We all have to be a part of the solution.”

The letter from doctors warns that major surgical procedures are being postponed by Alberta Health Services to reduce the need for  ICUs.

“Modelling projections, that have been extremely accurate to date, indicate that if the rate of spread is not adequately controlled soon there will be between 300 and 320 COVID patients in addition to the usual 150-174 non-COVID critically ill patients admitted to the ICUs in Alberta by the end of May, 2021,” it says.

“Although additional beds and equipment can likely be provided, it is highly doubtful that healthcare workers with the necessary expertise can be made available to staff the extra ICU surge beds and provide the level of care required by critically ill patients.”

This is not the first time doctors have raised the alarm about Alberta’s COVID-19 restrictions during the third wave of the pandemic. In April doctors with the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association (EZMSA) and the Calgary and Area Medical Staff Society (CAMSS) called for a lockdown or circuit breaker.

– With files from Jeff Labine

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