A group of 16 southern Alberta emergency physicians has penned an open letter in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. The group is sounding the alarm on a potential disaster which may overwhelm the health care system if the pandemic is not controlled soon enough.
In the letter, the physicians point to Italy as an example to learn from. According to the letter, in Italian hospitals, doctors are choosing who lives and dies simply because there are not enough resources to go around.
The letter goes on to say that the doctors do not want the same situation that has unfolded in Italy to occur here, however they fear that is what is coming.
The letter asks everyone to act now in order to avoid a system overload in Alberta. However, the letter points out that a system overload just isn’t about COVID-19; it says that scenario would fail everyone, including trauma, heart attack, and cancer patients, along with young patients.
The doctors say the only way to lessen the disaster is to slow the rate of new infections.
The doctors urge everyone to act now, since there will not be “a second chance to contain and prevent millions of infections and an unknown number of deaths.
“Our window of time to control this in Canada is closing fast,” the letter reads.
“We have been paying attention to our Italian physician colleagues and watching their sorrow,” the doctors say. “A few days from now may be too late.”
The doctors ask everyone to keep washing their hands, to stay home if you are sick, to cancel travel plans, and to encourage loved ones traveling abroad to come home now.
“Talk to your relatives and friends about how they can avoid catching this, and about what to do if they become sick,” reads the letter.
The doctors are also advising residents to have a network in place to help provide essential items to those at home, to stay in touch with others and keep an eye out for the most vulnerable citizens.
Dr. Duncan Mackey is one of the 16 doctors who took part in composing the letter and said public indifference in Canada could prevent the situation from being controlled effectively.
“Our concern is that there’s a lot of public complacency… despite all the messaging that’s out there,” Mackey said.
“So we need to get that public complacency and deal with that, and that’s why we wrote the letter because we’re the ones on the front line, we’re going to be the ones looking after you,” he said.
Mackey said one reason for the complacency may be that people don’t realize self-isolation and social distancing is to ensure the virus’ spread can be contained and that people with compromised immune systems stay safe.
“As soon as we overwhelm the system, then if you’re the last person to get a ventilator that’s available that day, great, but then what happens to the next person who needs that care, or what happens to the 50th person or the 100th?” he asked.
Mackey added that flattening the curve when it comes to drastic increases in coronavirus cases is key to preventing a possible strain on the limited amount of resources there are at Canadian hospitals.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Sunday there were now 56 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the province, with 17 of those confirmed between Saturday and Sunday.
The province has cancelled all kindergarten to Grade 12 classes in an effort to help decrease the spread of the virus.
Kenney announced a $500-million commitment to the government’s COVID-19 response to ensure “front-line health professionals have the tools they need for testing, surveillance and treatment of patients as the province works to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
He said the money is in addition to the already-budgeted $20.6 billion for Alberta Health.
The premier called the coronavirus pandemic an “unprecedented public health emergency for Alberta.”
“We are still in the early stages and the number of cases will continue to rise,” Kenney said.
Both health and government officials have been asking others practice social distancing and to self-isolate when entering the country again after being away on a trip.
“Be bold. Be decisive. Pay attention. We must look after each other,” the letter says. “We commend the swift action of our public health leaders. Listen to their recommendations.”
– With Files from Kaylen Small and the Canadian Press