It’s no one’s fault?

Alberta Health Minister Ron Liepert took part in a Calgary radio station’s talk show Monday and basically told QR77 host Dave Rutherford that the incredible screwup in the rollout of the H1N1 vaccination program is no one’s fault.

Alberta Health Minister Ron Liepert took part in a Calgary radio station’s talk show Monday and basically told QR77 host Dave Rutherford that the incredible screwup in the rollout of the H1N1 vaccination program is no one’s fault.

While admitting the immunization effort could have been handled better, he said it’s time to focus on the future and urged listeners not to look for anyone to blame. He suggested that nothing will be accomplished by pointing fingers.

Huh? If Albertans forget about the provincial government’s chaotic response to H1N1, then we can likely look forward to more of the same when it comes to health care in this province.

The Conservatives must be held responsible. In fact, there should be a thorough investigation.

The leader of the Alberta Liberals says the government of Premier Ed Stelmach may be to blame for H1N1 deaths in the province.

Is David Swann going too far in suggesting that the confusion during the first week of the vaccination program may have cost lives and the government needs to take responsibility for that?

Probably not.

Swann, who is a medical doctor, clearly recognizes that a number of people at high risk of developing complications from the H1N1 virus may have died of the disease without having been vaccinated first.

And why didn’t they get vaccinated?

Well, in some cases, no doubt, it was due to their own negligence.

In other cases, however, they may not have sought out vaccinations because the lineups during the first week of vaccinations were huge since so many people who were not at high risk were in the queue.

Now those people should not be blamed as Alberta health officials initially urged everyone in the province to get the shot and they initially made it available to anyone willing to endure a wait of several hours. That was a strategic mistake not made in most other provinces.

In fact, as Maclean’s magazine has observed: “No province has done a poorer job of communicating and organizing its H1N1 vaccination clinics than Alberta.”

“Those people who were supposed to be vaccinated,” said Swann, “how many of them have died or are in hospital today because they failed to get the vaccine?

“That is a fundamental failure of the system when it doesn’t provide that for the most vulnerable.”

Swann said some people may think he is fear-mongering, “but what can you say if someone doesn’t receive a vaccine that prevents disease and ultimately prevents death in high-risk people, and they didn’t get it in the first few weeks?”

Alberta Health Services deserves some credit for improving the distribution of the H1N1 vaccine after initially getting it mostly wrong.

For instance, its current use of wristbands to manage lineups should help ensure people won’t have to wait too long.

But an investigation is stilled needed. And as Swann has noted, Albertans deserve to know how many people have died needlessly.

Not surprisingly, on Monday’s talk show, Liepert had plenty of criticism for opposition politicians and the media, but he wouldn’t personally accept any responsibility. He still doesn’t get it.

Lee Giles is an Advocate editor.

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