Alberta does not need outside help in its COVID-19 battle from other provinces or the military just yet, says Premier Jason Kenney.
The premier said he took a call last week from Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey offering support. In the first wave last year, Newfoundland sent medical personnel to Ontario to help out.
Kenney said he told his counterpart that the worst-case scenario of reaching the limits of the health system around Sept. 23 did not occur.
“I said based on our early warning system that worst-case scenario would not happen until the third to fourth week of October.”
But if Newfoundland feels it can free up some of its health workers for Alberta “we would be delighted to receive that support.
“I know there are discussions going on right now between AHS and the Newfoundand health service, so there may be news on that in the days to come.”
Last week, the province sent a letter to the federal government to trigger the emergency support protocols. The move formalized informal discussions that had already been going on between the provincial and federal officials, said Kenney.
While the prospect of getting help from the Canadian military has been raised the armed forces “has a very minimal health capacity,” he said.
“I think there is a fairly widespread misconception about the kind of depth they have in medical personnel,” he said, adding the military contracts out most health care for its personnel to provincial and private health care providers.
While Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia did draw on some Armed Forces resources earlier in the pandemic it largely involved providing reservists to help out health care aides in nursing homes, he said.
“That is not a need we have. Our acute need is registered nurses with ICU (intensive care unit) experience.”
Discussions are ongoing with the military, however, there are also other jurisdictions in Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories and Interior B.C. that need help and decision will need to be made on where the support is needed most.
“If we believe it’s necessary to supplement our system here we will certainly call upon the federal government to deploy whatever medical staff they can.
“But, again, I think we need to be very realistic in our expectations, that we would be talking about a small number of people.”
The premier said Alberta is providing help to other provinces. Nine of the province’s 263 ICU patients are from outside the province, he said.