Alberta health unions call on province to seek military aid

“We believe Alberta’s health care system is not just ‘on the verge of collapse’ – we believe it is collapsing in front of our eyes.”

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Alberta’s largest healthcare unions are calling on Premier Jason Kenney to call on the federal government to immediately deploy the military, Red Cross and all other available medical resources to help overwhelmed hospitals across the province.

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The presidents of the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA), the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) on Saturday signed a letter to Kenney. .

Together, these unions represent over 100,000 people working in Alberta’s health care system.

“We believe Alberta’s health care system is not just ‘on the verge of collapse’ – we believe it is collapsing in front of our eyes,” the letter read. .

“There are no more nurses in our province who can be deployed. There are no more paramedics. There are no more respiratory therapists. There are no more support staff. The tank is empty. The well is dry. Our members have been scrambling for 19 months, but they fear this pandemic wave will be the one that will crush them. “

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Alberta would not be the only province asking for military aid during the pandemic. In April, three military medical units were deployed to support Ontario hospitals during Wave 3. The federal government also paid for the deployment of the Red Cross and to coordinate aid from other provinces.

However, the federal government can only act if the Prime Minister asks for help, the letter notes.

“The hour is late and the situation is grim. Federal deployment of resources alone will not be enough to get us through. But it will help. The bottom line is that we need more aggressive action from your government to reduce the viral transmission that is causing this crisis. But, in the meantime, we need more people on the front lines. Before we can get the help we desperately need from the rest of the country, we need you to ask for it. So please ask.

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Postmedia has contacted the prime minister’s office for comment.

No request made to date

Steve Buick, press secretary to the Minister of Health, said the military and the Red Cross “will have limited capacity to provide clinical resources, so no requests have been made to them to date.”

“If and when their help is needed, for example in providing material or logistical support such as patient transportation, we will respond to requests where appropriate,” Buick wrote in an email to Postmedia.

The AHS said Thursday afternoon that there are currently 268 total patients in intensive care units across Alberta, 83% of whom are receiving treatment for COVID-19. The province added 137 more intensive care beds to meet demand, giving it an 86% capacity. But without these additional surge spaces, provincial intensive care capacity would be 155%.

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Meanwhile, Alberta’s two closest provincial neighbors say they won’t be able to help the province during the critical care crisis, with officials in Saskatchewan and British Columbia saying the current demands of their own health systems prevent them from providing resources to Alberta.

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix said Thursday that British Columbia was unable to loan health care workers to Alberta because of its own demands for health care.

British Columbia Premier John Horgan said he has spoken to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney about the COVID situation and British Columbia will help him in any way it can. But Horgan says B.C.’s goal is to ensure its intensive care units aren’t overwhelmed with COVID patients and force more surgeries to be canceled.

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Doctors from the independent group Protect Our Province warned about the capacity of health care during an afternoon press briefing on Friday.

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Edmonton intensivist Dr. Brian Buchanan handles the transportation of critically ill patients as part of his job.

“Now we’re talking about transporting people from Alberta to other provinces,” Buchanan said. “The longer you travel, the harder it is.”

Long distances require both land and air transportation and are labor intensive, Buchanan said. Those resources are already exhausted, he said, and suggested military aid might be more feasible to help transport patients.

– With files from Jason Herring, Susan Lazaruk and The Canadian Press

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