EDMONTON — Tomorrow marks 3 years since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. While Albertans continue to be impacted, and while people in this province are still getting sick and dying from this disease, our governments would rather declare the pandemic over and move on. To date over 5600 people have died of COVID-19 in this province.
“Throughout the pandemic our government has consistently ignored or hidden the evidence and dragged their feet on actions that would keep Albertans safe and healthy,” said Chris Gallaway, executive director of Friends of Medicare. “This year’s anniversary should be a time to commit to collecting good data and making structural changes that will keep Albertans safe over the long-term.”
The office of the Auditor General recently released new reports looking at long-term care in Alberta, and evaluating our initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These reports clearly lay out how we’ve failed seniors in long-term care, especially during the early days of the pandemic.
“The Auditor General’s Reports highlighted the systemic issues we’ve been raising in seniors care in Alberta for many years,” said Gallaway. “Issues like infrastructure challenges, chronic understaffing, and reliance on a precarious workforce without job security, benefits or paid sick days. Ultimately, it all comes back to Alberta’s approach to long term care which treats seniors as commodities, prioritizing profits over providing quality care.”
Since the very beginning of the pandemic, advocates have been calling for action to protect more Albertans, with changes that would reduce the spread of airborne diseases in workplaces and public spaces. Things like ensuring proper ventilation and air filtration, and of course paid sick days for all workers.
“We are 3 years into a pandemic, and yet workers still don’t have the most basic of workplace protections: paid sick days,” said Gallaway. “It’s totally unacceptable. All workers need to know they have the option to be away from work when they are ill or need to care for sick children. This is good for workers, good for the workplace, good for their families and communities, and it's long overdue.”
As the pandemic continues to circulate through our population, an increasing number of Albertans are experiencing long COVID and post-COVID syndrome. Living with long COVID impacts people's quality of life and many struggle to find the proper care or access the treatment and supports they need. The government continues to ignore the care needs of an increasing number of long COVID patients being added to the system, or the downstream impact this will have on our health care system for years to come.
"Albertans have suffered for the past three years as a direct result of government inaction that allowed COVID to tear through their workplaces, schools, and care homes without the necessary public health protections to keep them safe," said Gallaway. “Now, too many Albertans are struggling with long COVID with no support. Our government has a responsibility to act to ensure that everyone in this province has access to the care they need.”
Friends of Medicare will be joining Public Interest Alberta's Seniors' Task Force, Alberta Federation of Labour, Health Sciences Association of Alberta, and United Nurses of Alberta on Monday, March 13 to commemorate the third anniversary of COVID-19, and to call for action to address long COVID in Alberta. We encourage Albertans to join us: https://www.friendsofmedicare.org/3rd_anniversary_of_covid_19_memorial_event
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