Alberta Health Services refuses to disclose how many ventilators are at Red Deer’s hospital as COVID-19 infections spread.
And NDP health critic David Shepherd says Red Deerians deserve straight answers.
“I think it’s pretty reasonable for folks in Red Deer, or pretty much anywhere in the province, to want to have some specifics about the supply of what’s probably critical equipment dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic — ventilators, masks, other protective equipment,” said Shepherd, who has called on the government to provide weekly updates on medical supplies and equipment.
“The three ministers representing central Alberta owe it to their communities to push (Health Minister) Tyler Shandro and their colleagues in cabinet to be providing that information to Albertans, to give them that reassurance that their government is ensuring they have what they need.”
In a statement to the Advocate, AHS would only say that Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre “is not short of ventilators to care for COVID-19 patients, or others who need such support in the ICU.”
Prior to the pandemic, the Red Deer Health Foundation announced that money raised by Red Deer Hospital Lottery 2020, which kicked off last month, will go toward replacing 10 aging ventilators.
AHS said those ventilators continue to function safely and efficiently, and that as of March 31, there were 509 adult critical care ventilators at key sites, including Red Deer.
Ventilators were available for transport purposes at other hospitals in AHS’s central zone, added the agency.
AHS said it planned to have 925 ventilators by the end of April, of which 761 would be available for COVID-19 patients, enough to meet the estimated critical care needs under both the probable and elevated scenarios released as part of the provincial modelling last week.
Shepherd said for weeks, Alberta’s United Conservative government has ignored the NDP’s request for details on critical medical apparatus and personal protective equipment.
Meanwhile, Premier Jason Kenney announced that Alberta was sending surplus COVID-19 equipment, including 50 ventilators, to Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
“It was at the very least, poor communications, and poor optics on the part of the premier, to be making that national commitment at a time when he had not clearly communicated with folks here in Alberta about how his government was planning to provide support and where,” Shepherd said.
He said the NDP supports helping other parts of Canada. But it’s only recently that the province has made overall supply numbers public, he said, and Albertans have concerns about distribution.
“I think Albertans, and indeed folks from Red Deer, deserve straight answers,” Shepherd said.
Steve Buick, press secretary for Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the province provided two detailed updates on personal protective equipment in the past week alone, in addition to information included in daily updates from the chief medical officer of health.
“Our government has worked with AHS to give Albertans the best-supplied health system in Canada, in fact we’ve been able to share PPE and ventilators with other provinces,” Buick said.
Manon Therriault, CEO of the Red Deer Health Foundation, said the group’s goal is to replace the 10 aging ventilators in the near future, and people are buying hospital lottery tickets, even though the dream home is closed to visitors due to the pandemic.
“We did expect the lottery not to be as successful as anticipated, because we’re not selling tickets at the house, we’re not selling tickets at the hospital, but it’s doing very well. It’s nice to see the community still push through while we are going through what we’re going through,” Therriault said.
AHS requested that 10 ventilators be replaced, costing $20,000 to $75,000 each, for intensive care, operating and the emergency departments for adults, pediatric and neonatal patients.
— with files from The Canadian Press