Don’t blame the Flames

By now, most Albertans know that some Calgary Flames players and their families received the H1N1 flu vaccine last week at a special clinic with the help of Alberta Health Services.

By now, most Albertans know that some Calgary Flames players and their families received the H1N1 flu vaccine last week at a special clinic with the help of Alberta Health Services.

Judging from an opinion poll posted on the Advocate’s website Wednesday, the reaction of Central Albertans is mixed.

Asked how they feel about the hockey players and their families getting special treatment, as of noon yesterday, 44 per cent of respondents said they were outraged, 29 per cent were “a little ticked,” and 34 per cent described the matter as “no big deal.”

A visitor to the website, who identified herself as Shellsey, wrote: “Give me a break. If it was offered at your office to get the flu shot quicker and easier, those of you who wanted it would have taken it.

“The Calgary Flames . . . come in contact with so many people that maybe they are at higher risk.”

Another commentator, self-identified as jc82, wrote: “What a joke! This is the only pro sports team in Canada to do this and their organization should be ashamed, but so should the Alberta government for allowing it.”

In fairness, the Flames team is not the only professional sports team in Canada to do this.

According to QR77 Radio, the farm team of the Calgary Flames, the Abbotsford Heat, jumped the queue for the H1N1 vaccine, too.

That noted, it’s not really the Flames players or even team management that is to blame for this fiasco. It’s the health-care officials who allowed it to happen.

As Flames president Ken King told reporters on Tuesday, his team simply put in a request for the vaccine after being advised to do so by medical staff.

After the team doctors consulted with AHS officials on the “potential commotion and intrusion” that sending the team to one of the public mass vaccination clinics would cause, most players got their shots on Friday at a medical clinic “under the direction of Alberta Health Services,” according to a statement released by the Flames.

Now, there’s no question that the hockey players and their families should not have received the vaccine ahead of health-care workers and Albertans considered to be at high risk. But there’s not much sense in pointing fingers at the Flames.

This appears to be simply another case of Alberta health officials mismanaging the rollout of the H1N1 vaccination program.

The person who allowed the Flames and their families to receive the H1N1 vaccine has been fired, but the sacrifice of one scapegoat won’t change things.

Once the complete truth eventually comes out, there are probably a number of people in Alberta who got the vaccine by hook or crook before others who were more deserving. That’s just the way it goes, unfortunately.

Still, the incident involving the Flames will do nothing to foster confidence in Alberta’s health-care system.

Perhaps it’s time for Premier Ed Stelmach and Health Minister Ron Liepert to turn the entire immunization program over to the Liberals, the New Democrats or the Wildrose Alliance. They couldn’t do any worse.

Lee Giles is an Advocate editor.

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