“Currently, Alberta ICUs are running at well over 150 per cent of normal capacity.”
That’s part of the message in a letter sent to all Albertans from 58 intensive care physicians who represent a section of the Alberta Medical Association (AMA).
The letter, released on Monday, goes on to say the province remains on the verge of a health system collapse.
It came just one day after Alberta’s former chief medical officer of health co-wrote a letter pleading for the government to initiate a fire-break lockdown in an effort to slow the fourth wave.
The association says demand for intensive care nurses is so great, the number of patients assigned to each nurse has been increased, putting the level of care well below normal standards.
“Demand is driven by critically ill patients with COVID-19. We have responded aggressively by working with Alberta Health Services to increase our provincial ICU beds,” the letter issued on Monday stated.
“To achieve this, AHS made the difficult decision to divert workers from other areas of our health-care system. This comes with major consequences, such as postponement of surgeries, important diagnostic tests and treatments. Given the magnitude of disruptions, this very well may have already impacted you or one of your loved ones.”
“Given the unrelenting pace of infections, it is unclear when these postponements will cease. The impact of this on the health of Albertans will be profound and long lasting.”
The group says the ICU situation could lead to triage protocols, in which doctors must make on-the-spot decisions about who gets life-saving care.
The doctors from every corner of the province say it’s “not too late to change course” when it comes to slowing down the fourth wave — though the time to act is now.
They agreed with the data presented in last weeks news conference by the Alberta government, and the decision to implement further public health measures.
However, the ICU physicians hope the public health measures are here to stay until case numbers go down.
Still on the fence? Get answers from medical professionals
The intensive care unit section of the AMA continues to encourage those who may still be on the fence about getting the vaccine to discuss it with their family doctor.
Another resource for those with questions is the Government of Canada’s website, where medical professionals have been answering commonly asked questions.
“We acknowledge that there can be fear of the vaccine, however we do not want to meet you in one of our ICUs with a disease that is preventable.”
The doctors added it’s clear from the fourth wave the unvaccinated are at a much greater risk of requiring hospitalization and ICU care.
“We applaud those Albertans who had the courage to be vaccinated to not only protect themselves, but to also protect those around them,” the letter stated.
“If vaccination rates were higher, we could prevent our emergency departments, hospital wards and ICUs from being overrun. If more Albertans choose vaccination, our operating rooms will run, and we will be able to provide those important tests, surgeries and treatments that are currently postponed.”
‘We still need your help’
Though some remain hopeful they won’t have to initiate triage protocol, there’s three steps they’re asking the public to follow if they too want to stop the spread of the deadly virus.
First, they’re asking Albertans to advocate to the provincial government to continue to control the spread of COVID-19 through public health measures.
Second, they’re encouraging those that are vaccinated to support others to get the vaccine if they can.
Lastly, the doctors urge everyone to continue to follow public health measures along with wearing masks where appropriate, wash your hands, stay home if sick and follow public health guidelines — especially if you have symptoms of COVID-19.
“We still have the opportunity to prevent this crisis from becoming any worse.”
Head of Canadian Pediatric Society echoes call for action
Calling it a “significant concern,” the president of the Canadian Pediatric Society (CPS), along with Alberta’s representative on the CPS board, are also pushing for immediate action when it comes to how the pandemic is being dealt with in the province.
A letter written by Dr. Ruth Grimes and Dr. Raphael Sharon was shared on Monday afternoon to the public though written directly to the premier, the new minister of health and Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.
“While we strongly support the re-introduction of essential public health measures on Sept. 16, they do not go far enough to reflect how fast the virus is spreading or how overwhelmed our health-care system currently is,” the letter stated.
The piece goes on to say the pediatricians are extremely worried about the direct health impacts the current COVID-19 crisis will have on kids.
“We are anxious about the threat posed to their access to education, community supports and essential services.”
As such, the pair is asking for mandatory immunization for all adults working in schools or child-care settings or mandatory regular testing for those who cannot be vaccinated.
They’re also calling for expanding indoor masking requirements in schools and child-care settings to include all those over the age of two, including when seated at a desk or table. This would come with limited exceptions including for eating/drinking, health conditions, or if they are unable to remove the mask without assistance.
“Given the high transmissibility of the delta variant and the rise of active cases throughout the province, we are witnessing a significant increase in cases amongst children and youth.”
“As adults, we must do everything in our power to protect the health and well-being of Alberta’s children and youth – especially given their continued ineligibility for vaccination. We therefore urge you to implement the above recommendations immediately to reduce the threat this crisis poses to Alberta’s youth.”
With vaccinations for children five to 11 years old anticipated in the coming months, CPS is also recommending the province begin to prepare for in-school vaccination clinics for the seasonal flu and COVID-19 immediately.
BELOW: Full letter from the Alberta Medical Association ICU physicians
BELOW: Full letter from the Canadian Pediatric Society
— With files from The Canadian Press