A 60-year-old COVID-19 patient fights for his life, desperately gasping for air as health-care staff provide life saving medical care in an emergency situation in the intensive care unit at the Humber River Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Surveys from the Ontario Medical Association suggest nearly three-quarters of physicians experienced at least some level of burnout when asked in 2021, up from 66 per cent the previous year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Emergency doctor says key parts of health triage have begun in Alberta

EDMONTON — The head of emergency medicine for the Alberta Medical Association says major components of triage have already begun in Alberta.

Dr. Paul Parks says that in recent days some critically ill COVID-19 patients who should be on ventilators are not getting them.

He says that’s on top of previously announced mass cancellations of surgeries, along with patient transfers as doctors balance medical need with available space.

Parks says it’s not at the point where doctors must make on-the-spot, life-and-death decisions.

But he says that’s not far away and, when it comes, the second stage of triage will follow quickly, including making those same decisions about children.

Parks says Alberta Health Services is doing everything it can, but he says the government has failed to lead by imposing lax health restrictions and by allowing mass gatherings, including in schools and at sports events.

Alberta is seeing well over 1,000 new COVID-19 cases a day.

Parks says there needs to be an immediate response, including mandatory mask mandates everywhere and shutting down schools and mass gatherings.

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

The Canadian Press