If the spread of COVID-19 is not slowed down in Alberta, one doctor is warning the province could be out of ICU room within two weeks.
That’s according to Dr. Noel Gibney, a professor emeritus at the University of Alberta and a former doctor at the U of A hospital in Edmonton.
In just under two weeks, Alberta’s data has shown a 40 per cent increase to hospitalizations, a 61 per cent increase in patients who have had to be admitted to the ICU and Alberta’s ICU capacity is at 66 per cent.
But that’s not the only concern Gibney has. Data has shown that every time a health-care worker tests positive for COVID-19, about six other staff members have to isolate.
“Where we are with staffing at the moment, we definitely don’t have the staff to cope with an increase beyond where we are now,” he said.
This warning comes as more than 400 doctors and union heads representing thousands of nurses have signed an open letter addressed to Alberta’s premier, health minister and chief medical officer of health, urging the province to bring in strong restrictions immediately to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the province.
Dr. Joe Vipond, an emergency room doctor at Calgary’s Rockyview General Hospital, is one of those doctors.
He said the letter — signed by 450 health-care workers and union heads representing more than 117,000 members as of noon on Thursday — came after Premier Jason Kenney announced further restrictions last week. For Vipond, what was announced wasn’t enough.
“It was like a punch in the gut. At that point in time we kind of felt like society had our back and at that very moment, we really felt let down by our leadership.
In the letter, the signatories urge the government to take the following “decisive mandatory measures.”
- Directives to work from home for anyone who is able
- Limiting contacts to those within the household or support bubble
- Restrictions on group recreation/sports activities
- Suspension of group indoor activities (including indoor dining, bars, casinos, religious services and theatres)
The signatories recommend keeping schools open for in-person learning options “due to their vital importance,” but Vipond said the government needs to provide more support for schools by introducing things like mandatory masking in classrooms and making sure all schools have proper ventilation.
“I hope (the province knows) what’s going to happen and I hope they eventually make the correct response to it, but currently we haven’t seen any evidence of that.
“I’m hoping we will see a more robust response to what’s happening, what’s about to happen, this afternoon,” Gibney said.
Alberta will receive another COVID-19 update from Dr. Deena Hinshaw Thursday at 3:30 p.m. Further restrictions are expected to be announced at that time.
Kenney has said Alberta will not return to a “lockdown” type of situation like many are calling for. He told reporters at a COVID-19 news conference on Nov. 6 that his government’s goal isn’t to get Alberta to zero COVID-19 cases; the goal is to keep the spread under control so it doesn’t overwhelm the health-care system without harming the economy or people’s social and mental health.
“There are a whole bunch of measures we can put in place to support local businesses,” Vipond said. “But at this juncture, (the province is) endangering our health-care system.”
Kenney has said he hasn’t completely ruled out the idea of “targeted limited restrictions,” but stressed those would only be put in place if Alberta was in a situation where the caseload would overwhelm the health-care system.
Global News has been told by sources that stricter measures are being discussed to slow the spread in Alberta.
Vipond and Gibney both hope any new restrictions go further than gathering limits.
“Right now the terms we’re hearing are ‘short sharp,” Vipond said. “But probably the more important part is sharp. We need to have a really significant limitation of our interactions as citizens so that we decrease the transmission number so we can keep our hospital system functional.”
For Gibney, even strong restrictions may be too late.
“Personally, I think the actions to date of the Alberta government have been irresponsible and I think it’s time they behaved responsibly for the people of Alberta,” Gibney said.
630 CHED reached out to the spokesperson for both Kenney and Alberta Health and was told to “stay tuned to the premier/Dr. Hinshaw press conference set for 3:30 p.m. today.”
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