A few dozen doctors from southern Alberta are expressing their concern regarding COVID-19 infections in the area, and are urging people to do their part.
Dr. Sean Wilde published an online letter entitled ‘A Message from Southern Alberta Doctors,’ which has been signed by about 40 doctors from Lethbridge and area, including the Crowsnest Pass, Medicine Hat and Raymond.
The letter, posted on Monday, discusses a variety of topics dealing with the pandemic, including statistics for intensive care units, impacts on health care workers, importance of adherence to public health guidelines and vaccines.
“We do not wish to instill fear, but do advise ongoing caution, and wise decisions,” the letter reads.
“We join our voices to those of other physicians encouraging the provincial government to do its part to get Alberta over the finish line without an even larger third wave, vaccinate all front-line health care workers, and prepare for the additional health care resources that may be required in the south zone.”
Wilde works in the emergency department at Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge. Although he doesn’t deal directly with the ICU, he knows the importance of keeping space available for non-COVID-19 patients.
“It usually takes a couple of weeks before we see the affects on the hospital of surges in case count,” Wilde explained. “We’re just starting to get to that stage now where we’re seeing that in the hospital from this most recent increase in the Lethbridge area.”
“We are caring for a lot of COVID patients in the ICU,” Wilde said. “My understanding is that is most of our ICU capacity.”
Wilde adds he understands the fatigue that comes with a year-long pandemic, but now is not the time to ease up.
“Certainly in health care, since we experience it every day, we’re more aware, I think, than most people are of what the consequences are of a bad COVID infection,” Wilde explained.
“I think it’s normal that people who don’t see that have a hard time appreciating the importance — and that’s why we wanted to put the message out there.”
Among the family doctors who signed the letter is Dr. Jessica van der Sloot, who works at Campbell Clinic.
Physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and all other regulated health care professionals and their office or support staff are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Phase 2C.
That phase will commence after Phase 2B, which started Tuesday.
“It is a little disheartening to kind of see this big spike in cases again and feel like, ‘OK, every person that walks in here could be pre-symptomatic and test positive for COVID in two days,'” van der Sloot said.
“You sort of just cross your fingers and hope there wasn’t enough viral load to infect anyone in the clinic.”
“Every patient that I see that turns out to be positive the day after I see them is a roll of the dice.”
Tom McMillian, assistant director of communications for Alberta Health, says the province understands the importance of vaccinating all health care workers and their staff.
Albertans outlined to receive the vaccine in Phase 2B have been prioritized due to their higher risk of being hospitalized or dying from the virus.
“Vaccine supply is still very limited, but we will begin Phase 2C as quickly as possible,” McMillan said in an email.
For the time being, the concerned doctors are hoping the public hears their concern and continues to follow public health guidelines.
“Regardless of what the rules are, they’re only as good as people’s intentions to follow them.
“We are encouraging people to please do that,” Wilde said.
The province added another 576 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, 33 of which are in Lethbridge.