August 13, 2021
The power of the people can never be underestimated—Even under this reckless government
After 15 straight days of protesting the government’s reckless decision to remove Alberta’s most basic and necessary COVID-19 protections, the government has finally taken notice, and moved to “pause” the removal of these protections for 6 weeks, until September 27.
“Today the voices of Albertans proved louder than the irresponsibility of our government. Albertans have shown that we’re able to protect each other when the government won’t,” stated Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. “Faced with a government that has given up on providing leadership and making difficult decisions, Albertans have demonstrated that we truly are in this together when it comes time to protect each other, our children and the most vulnerable.”
A 6 week delay to the removal of the most basic public health measures will allow our health care system time to plan for and respond to the concerning rise in COVID-19 numbers that Alberta is currently experiencing. These numbers show what we’ve been saying all along: cannot wish COVID away by burying our head in the sand and claiming victory. Accessible testing, robust contact tracing, and mandatory isolation remain as critical now as ever.
Testing assessment centers had been scheduled to shut down on August 31st, and testing was instead set to be offloaded onto family physicians and the province’s already overstretched emergency departments. Doctors had not received COVID protocols to keep their patients and staff safe while administering testing to COVID-positive patients, nor had they been given the PPE and/or supplies necessary to complete the actual tests. Testing in centralized locations that are safe and accessible to all Albertans must continue to be part of our public health system so that those seeking testing are not put into a position where they are required to pay out of pocket. COVID testing is medically essential, and this government has a responsibility to provide medically essential services, even beyond September 27.
Unions representing workers who are currently providing contact tracing had already received notice of lay-offs, and until today, workers remained uncertain as to whether their jobs would even exist next week. Tracing is essential to identify pockets of infection within the province, and to obtain the data necessary to inform appropriate public health planning. We need transparency and accountability so that Albertans know if they are working or have frequented a place where infection is present.
Finally, the continuation of mandatory isolation for COVID-positive individuals has been, and will continue to be critical for slowing the spread. Moreover, this requirement provides workers who cannot afford to stay home when they are sick a certain level of financial and job security—exactly what Albertans and their families need when they are unexpectedly sick.
After the irresponsibility shown by this government, Jason Kenney, his Ministers and MLAs have a debt of gratitude to Albertans for showing them how leadership should work. They have a heightened responsibility to ensure that any new public health decisions must come with modeling available to Albertans as to how all future decisions are being made.
“This is a temporary victory, and Albertans will be watching closely to ensure that decisions about our public health are being made based on the best possible medical evidence, not left up to political whims,” says Azocar. “And if we have to protest again in September, Albertans will be ready.”
Friends of Medicare extends our gratitude to the innumerable Albertans who came out to protests over the last few weeks, and who took the time to write to or call their representatives in opposition to this reckless decision. Thank you all for standing up for our collective public health!
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