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Province, physicians look for staffing and capacity solutions as COVID-19 spreads

Both the provincial government and the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) say they're ready to collaborate to help the strained health system as a busy autumn approaches.

Alberta reported a spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations, intensive care admissions and deaths Wednesday.

The data, compiled from the past week, says 33 more people died after contracting the illness. That brings the province's pandemic total to 4,905.

Another 134 Albertans were admitted to hospital, which means there are now 980 people being treated inside a facility — 39 of those in an intensive care unit.

The uptick has some on high alert.

"We are nervous about the fall," said Dr. Vesta Michelle Warren, AMA president. "We know COVID is still out there and we are predicting a really bad influenza season."

"Overall, our system is absolutely operating in (a) disaster mode type of functioning every single day," physician Dr. Paul Parks added. "Across all zones, every emergency department, we are seeing more and more patients."

Currently in Alberta, 16 hospitals are dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak.

That has sparked added conversation between the province and health care workers as preparations are made for even higher case admissions ahead of influenza season.

"We know there are no quick fixes," Health Minister Jason Copping said, "(but) Alberta Health Services is putting together plans to increase capacity, particularly in areas where there's stress already."

But Parks believes increasing capacity will only go so far.

Across the country, almost every health facility is dealing with staffing shortages. Parks says those on his floor want that problem to be focused on first.

Copping says he's open to hearing suggestions from stakeholders.

"We need to work in partnership," he said about the province and physicians, "and there has been an incredible improvement in the relationship over the last year."

That sometimes-fraught relationship was positively displayed as the two sides reached a new contract agreement this week.

Both parties stressed collaboration Thursday.

"That's why this agreement is so important, because it actually provides the base for an ongoing partnership with doctors, so we can work together to solve these challenges," Copping said.

The health minister also preached the importance of the latest COVID-19 booster shot and of flu shots.

Appointments for the latter should open up in mid-October. Top Stories

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