'Hope is not a strategy': Alberta doctors say province needs a better plan
CALGARY -- A letter signed by dozens of physicians paints a dire picture for Alberta’s health system if the government does not impose a two-week lockdown to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
In it, physicians tell Premier Jason Kenney, Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw they are “deeply concerned” about the number of cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions.
“If this rate of increase continues unabated, our acute care health system will be overrun in the near future,” the letter states.
“If the rate of COVID-19 spread continues, the consequences to the people of Alberta will be catastrophic. Acute care beds now used to treat patients with cancers, heart disease and other serious conditions will be occupied by COVID-19 patients. Operating rooms will be converted to overflow ICUs and health care professionals will struggle to provide an acceptable quality of care.”
As of Monday, 192 Albertans with COVID-19 were receiving care in hospital, including 39 patients in ICU.
“We are looking at pain whatever happens,” said Noel Gibney, a professor emeritus at the University of Alberta’s department of critical care medicine and one of the letter’s writers. “But 10 days from now, we’ll have about 75 to 80 patients in the ICU and we will be in trouble, but if we don’t do something now, the following two weeks we are guaranteed to be absolutely overrun and in huge trouble.”
A second letter, signed by five Alberta physicians, called for people to work from home whenever possible, narrow household or support bubbles, restrictions on group recreation and sports activities, and a suspension of group indoor activities, including indoor dining, bars, casinos, religious services and theatres.
However, the second letter also recommended that the province should "aim to keep schools open for in-person learning options."
‘WE NEED RULES NOT SUGGESTIONS’
The physicians say they understand the negative effects another lockdown would have on the economy and people’s social lives, but they argue the government’s “requests” and voluntary guidelines is unlikely to reduce the rapid spread.
“The province should consider a two-week short, sharp lockdown, or ‘circuit-breaker’ to drop the effective reproductive number and allow contact tracing to catch up, then turn to targeted regional control measures similar to Manitoba, Ontario and British Columbia, which have a sliding scale of restrictions based on the number of cases, hospital admissions and ICU capacity.
“We need rules not suggestions,” the letter reads.
In an interview with CTV News, Dr. Joe Vipond described the province's approach to fighting COVID-19 as 'reactive' and based on wishful thinking rather than scientific principle.
"Hope is not a strategy," Vipond said.
"What we are afraid of is that as we delay making the hard choices, what that's going to end up resulting in is an eventual lockdown that's deeper and lasts longer than anybody wants," Vipond said. "The key with COVID-19 is being proactive. Right now, we're being reactive - and it's not going to work."
"We're way behind where we were last spring, as far as numbers of hospitalizations, and numbers of cases," he said. "We seem to have less political will to act on these numbers, and I'm really concerned that that's not going to be good for our economy."
Vipond was also critical of the absence of a province-wide mandatory mask mandate, and also expressed disappointed in the absence of mandated mask policies in many workplaces, even in cities like Calgary and Edmonton where masks are mandatory in public spaces.
"Last time I checked, 20 workplaces were sources of outbreaks," he said.
In her Monday update, Hinshaw said the so-called circuit breaker is an interesting idea that’s under discussion.
“As I've said before, when we're looking at all of our options we know that there is no one perfect way to manage our COVID-19 experience. We need to look at all options on the table, including something like that circuit breaker, including what we're doing now, which is giving Albertans every opportunity to walk along with us to come alongside and be a part of the solution before we impose restrictions," she said.
“Right now we're again watching our numbers, watching our hospitalizations very closely. We're having active discussions about multiple options, and again, trying to make the best decision possible for Albertans.”
With files from CTV Edmonton's Diego Romero and CTV Calgar'y's Brenna Rose