COVID rages in Alberta; Kenney rejects calls for COVID ‘firebreak’

Dr. Paul Parks

ALBERTA HAS A DOUBLE PROBLEM. First, COVID-19 is close to out of control. Second, premier Jason Kenney refuses to face up to that reality. Dr. Neeja Bakshi calls it “the big disconnect”—the difference between what life is like on the pandemic frontlines for patients and healthcare providers and what life is like out in the world beyond the ICUs.

Bakshi is a member of Protect Our Province, a collective of doctors, health care workers and citizens who came together in late August to “fill the void” after the provincial government stopped regular COVID briefings.

Protect Our Province hosts a Facebook page where rotating panels of doctors and experts give timely, accurate updates on the COVID crisis in Alberta several times a week.

“We’re trying to give Albertans some of the information they need to make safe decisions, and hopefully even give some of the leaders the information they need to make safe decisions,” said Dr. Joe Vipond, an emergency room physician at Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary.

The Protect Our Province panel on September 24 offered many insights and observations. For example, the bad news that the whole healthcare system in Alberta is edging closer and closer to total collapse. The good news that there is still time to use a “firebreak” strategy to prevent it.

Here are some other key points the panel made.

Unsustainable and unimagineable
Panel host Michelle noted: “...the restrictions introduced by our provincial government signal to Albertans that it is business as usual. I can go to the mall. My kids can go to overcrowded classrooms, but 75% of pediatric surgeries have been postponed. And our medical system has moved into a mode that is not only unsustainable. It is unimaginable in a Canadian healthcare context, but nonetheless, here we are.”

A complete disconnect
From Dr. Iian Schwartz: “ know, this weekend 20,000 fans are going to be piling into an arena to watch the Flames and the Oilers play. There is a complete disconnect from the reality that we’re seeing on the ground and the response of the policymakers in our government. Imagine, this is a state of emergency, and we’re not even going to get any information about ICU capacity until Monday afternoon.

So much death
From Dr. Neeja Bakshi: “...talking to my colleagues who are on the COVID units, who are in the ICU, they’re at a level of despair that I don’t think any of us have ever seen before. They are seeing so much death. ... especially now in a preventable wave, and we’re seeing younger and younger patients die.

It didn’t have to be like this
From Reanne Booker PhD: “ can’t unsee what you see there. ... I’m used to dealing with people who are dying. What’s really hard about this is that it’s preventable deaths. What’s making it so challenging and knowing that this didn’t have to be like this. .

You want to pretend it’s not happening
From Dr. Leyla Asadi: “...this has been going on for so long and we wanted it to be over so badly. And so you want to pretend that it’s not happening. But the fact of the matter is the healthcare crisis is the worst that it’s ever been. And what really scares me right now is that there’s really no margin for error anymore. ... And we can’t afford to pretend that things are normal when they’re simply not.

No time to be ‘cute’
From Dr. Iian Schwartz: “...the time to be nuanced and cute with the rules, ...was a month ago. We’ve blown right past that. ... I don’t think we can afford anything, but a full and complete shutdown of everything, but essential businesses. ...I think this needs to include schools at this point.

Like a Humbolt bus crash every day
From Dr. Paul Parks: “...17 people dying today and the numbers in the last couple of days, that’s one or two Humboldt bus crashes every single day in Alberta. ...But when it happens every single day in our ICUs, our government ... can ignore it and say it’s business as usual out there, while we are giving a national SOS to the national government saying, come help us. It’s a disconnect that I just can’t understand. ... We need a firebreak. We need this transmission to be stopped dead in its tracks.

Ready for a ‘sharp u-turn’
From Dr. Gosia Gasperowicz: “So I want to talk about numbers here. That’s what is scary,... but we could really turn it, make a sharp U-turn almost instantly, ... we have all the tools necessary. We have a relatively high level of vaccinations. We have money to give people to stay home. We have what we need to make a full lockdown, to make a firebreak. We are not a poor country. So it’s doable.

“ less than seven weeks, we can stop all community transmission and then have normalcy back and prevent a fifth wave and ensure that the disaster we have now will not repeat in the future. All of this is doable within days. If we act now.

Albertans not to blame
From Dr. Paul Parks: “...our government is signaling that it’s business as usual while they’re sending out an international SOS. I don’t know how to put that together. And I don’t blame fellow Albertans right now. I want to be so clear. ... They’re following the lead of our government who is telling them everything’s okay. ... I struggle a lot with that disconnect of our government’s mixed messaging, for sure.

From Dr. Iian Schwartz:” ...there’s a lot of mixed messaging. We’re just not seeing the leadership that we need.

From Michelle: “Thank you all so very much for being available to take questions from all over the province today. I’ve heard support for #firebreakAB; that we need to stop everything and that we need support from our elected officials to do that financial support for businesses and humans, reinstating of isolating close contacts and testing of close contacts, and that we really, really, really need to find every single possible mechanism so that we don’t take that one step. That one step that is left before we plummet over that cliff.”


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