The Alberta Medical Association is calling on the provincial government to institute timely, effective public health measures to aggressively control COVID-19 cases in order to protect the health care system and keep Albertans safe.
Coming out of their Representative Forum meeting this past weekend, Alberta’s physicians are formally calling on Premier Jason Kenney and Health Minister Jason Copping to put “significant and immediate” measures in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
“This is an immediate problem that needs to be acted on. We are on the edge of a very dangerous cliff, one that will see physicians and other health care workers making decisions on who does and does not receive care if case numbers continue on this path,” said AMA president Dr. Paul Boucher.
The AMA said it recognizes other public health measures also need attention, but this call to action is the most urgent.
“While we know that there are serious negative consequences to hard lockdowns, unfortunately we see no other solution. It is now life and death,” said Boucher.
“Albertans are tired and have been doing their part since this all started and we do not make these statements lightly. These are indeed desperate times and we are disheartened that it has come to this. We need government to institute clear, decisive actions to immediately save our health care system from collapse and protect Albertans.”
Several other related issues were also discussed at the Representative Forum, including public measures to improve vaccination uptake, increasing support for providers dealing with the crisis, increased involvement of physicians and other health care workers in providing COVID-19 policy advice to government, and putting supports in place for delayed care and the many other health needs that are not currently being met.
Also on Monday, the AMA Section of Intensive Care released a letter to Albertans discussing the situation intensive care units are facing.
Alberta ICUs are running at more than 150 per cent of normal capacity and demand is driven by critically ill patients with COVID-19, the letter explains.
“We have responded aggressively by working with Alberta Health Services to increase our provincial ICU beds. To achieve this, AHS made the difficult decision to divert workers from other areas of our health care system. This comes with major consequences, such as postponement of surgeries, important diagnostic tests and treatments,” the letter said.
The letter said demand for ICU nurses is currently so high, the number of patients assigned to each nurse has to go up.
“This reduction in staffing ratio is well below our normal standard of care,” the letter stated.
“This will jeopardize the quality of ICU care that we are able to provide. If this continues, patients may need to be transported out of the province. In a worst case scenario, this could result in the need to activate the pandemic TRIAGE protocol, where some Albertans would be restricted from receiving potentially lifesaving therapies.
“The pandemic triage scenario is one that we believe no one in Alberta ever wants to see happen. We are closer to this reality than we have ever been before.”
The AMA Section of Intensive Care is encouraging people to get vaccinated.
“If more Albertans choose vaccination, our operating rooms will run, and we will be able to provide those important tests, surgeries and treatments that are currently postponed.”