Alberta’s former chief medical officer of health (CMOH) has co-written a letter to the province’s new health minister Jason Copping, strongly recommending additional measures in the province as the pandemic’s fourth wave continues to strain hospital capacity.
Dr. James Talbot, former CMOH, and Dr. Noel Gibney, a critical care specialist, made seven “urgent” recommendations in their letter:
- That the government work with AHS to start transferring ICU patients to other provinces now.
- That the government require proof of vaccination to access all non-essential services.
- That a set of “fire break” restrictions are implemented for a minimum of four weeks, including closing bars, indoor dining, indoor exercise and sports, and capacity limits on indoor spaces like places of worship and stores.
- That masks be mandated in schools, including when students are seated in classrooms.
- That contact tracing be done for positive COVID-19 tests.
- That the government and “related arms-length organizations (Alberta Blue Cross, WCB etc.)” mandate vaccines in all employees and contractors.
- That immunization of employees be mandated in essential and non-essential businesses.
“My biggest concern is that … this is just going to get worse,” Talbot told CBC News Network on Sunday.
Of those eligible, 73.4 per cent Alberta’s population is fully vaccinated, representing 62.4 per cent of the province’s total population.
Talbot said the amount of still-unvaccinated people is enough to be causing what Alberta hospitals are seeing right now. Vaccines are not available to children under 12.
“[People] are being denied things like chemotherapy, elective surgery and could eventually run into a triage protocol where worse things happen because of how clogged up the system is,” he said.
“We still have tools available to stop the spread of the virus in the community but the government is just choosing not to use them. They say they can’t. The truth is, they won’t.”
Talbot and Gibney’s letter outlines a grim near future in Alberta.
“Even if you were to implement the measures that we recommend today, it will take at least four weeks for them to have an effect on ICU beds. Time is of the essence. Albertans deserve better,” the letter reads, in part.
The letter said in the short term, ICU transfers out of province are the only way to stop the triage protocol from being implemented, and while such transfers provide a chance for critically ill Albertans to receive the care they need, it also comes with significant risks.
The disconnect between what is going on in the province and what frontline healthcare workers are experiencing is incredibly difficult, Talbot said.
“To deal with that psychological discrepancy between business as usual in the community and the hospital care system about to collapse, I don’t know how you deal with that psychologically,” he said.