September 28, 2021
Government continues to play political games with our health care and our lives
Over the weekend, Albertans saw their leadership once again engage in political games with our lives, gaslighting and projecting their own negligence onto others. This time, Alberta Health Services' leadership has been called into question, specifically Dr. Yiu, AHS’ CEO and President.
In two Facebook posts that have since been deleted, UCP MLA Shane Getson pointedly called into question AHS’ COVID-19 response, claiming “we need to be getting more bang for our buck when it comes to resource planning.”
Since its creation in 2008, AHS has been tasked with delivering health care to the 4.37 million people in this province, while the Minister of Health and their department, Alberta Health, are responsible for setting policy, budgets and the direction that our public health care system takes. As per their mandate, AHS is “subject to the direction of, and the resources provided by, the Minister of Health.” Ultimately, the policies and legislations that guide the delivery of our health care sit squarely in the hands of the government of the day.
“Blaming AHS has long served as a convenient means of deflection for the government,” says Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. “Now AHS has been left to pick up the pieces of this crisis that this government created by consistently avoiding any and all action to protect the people of this province from a predictable and avoidable fourth wave.”
On June 18, in a press conference announcing the removal of Alberta’s COVID-19 public health measures, in preparation for what the government was referring to as “the best summer ever,” Jason Kenney was asked about the government’s plan if Alberta were to enter a fourth wave. The Premier responded they “just don’t see that scenario,” despite warnings from health care workers and experts who were predicting just that.
On July 1, in a race to be the first jurisdiction in North America to do so, Alberta dropped all COVID-19 restrictions. Soon after, they deemed COVID-19 downgraded from pandemic to endemic. With the pandemic purportedly in the past, Jason Kenney left on a weeks-long vacation. While case numbers surged, and while Doctors, health care experts, and front-line workers were sounding the alarm and appealing for help from the government to deal with the impending impact that a fourth wave would have on them and our health care system, Albertans did not hear from the Premier (nor the rest of his caucus) for over three weeks.
Now, with the province indisputably in the midst of a devastating fourth wave, which the government has made little impact in curbing, neither Kenney nor his new Health Minister has made any comment denouncing Getson’s unfounded attacks on AHS.
“We’ve watched over and over as our leadership has abdicated all responsibility for protecting Albertans and our health care system,” says Azocar. “It’s always too little too late with this government, and we’re now seeing the impact of their recklessness firsthand. The least they could do is show some accountability to the people of this province.”
Yesterday, Westglen Elementary School in Edmonton hit 69 reported COVID-19 cases, among nearly 200 schools across the province in outbreaks. Yet this government has refused to reinstate contact tracing and isolation requirements in schools, putting children and educational workers at undue risk.
On Sunday, Jason Kenney rejected calls for a fire break, claiming implementing new public health restrictions would make “no sense for the 80 per cent of the population that is vaccinated.” But the government’s continued inaction has had repercussions on Albertans and our health care system far beyond the direct impact of the virus.
“This isn’t about some misplaced sense of fairness, it’s about the real patients in this province who are having their surgeries cancelled or postponed, who are being sent home to worry, or to sit in pain. It’s about whether or not there’ll be a bed for you if you need to go to the emergency room this week. It’s about the health care workers who haven’t had a break in months,” says Azocar. “Hospitals are preparing to enact critical care triage protocol. This isn’t hypothetical, we need action now.”
It’s clear that we urgently need to provide AHS with the time and reprieve to be able to continue to provide all health care services to all Albertans, and to avoid an impending worst case scenario. Friends of Medicare joins doctors, health care workers and experts in calling for an urgent, four week minimum fire break. In addition, we call on the government to immediately restore contact tracing of all Albertans who test positive for COVID-19—including students, and to mandate masking indoors in schools province-wide, including when students are seated in classrooms.
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