Dr. Katharine Smart, head of the group, said in a news release Wednesday the situations are “heartbreaking” and that an “all hands on deck” approach must be implemented.
“Any and all measures available must be applied to curb the rate of mortality, support workers and start addressing the consequences of patients’ whose care is now on hold indefinitely,” she said.
“This is a time for courageous action, and for politics to step out of the way of needed collaboration.”
The group targeted both the provincial and federal governments, asking them to increase vaccination through mandatory inoculation in health-care settings, and consider implementing “firebreakers” or “circuit breakers” style shutdowns.
Furthermore, the group wants to see increased mobility of health workers between provinces, and the support of safe patient transportation to other jurisdictions with more intensive care capacity.
Alberta and Saskatchewan now have “crumbling health-care systems” as a result of an almost rules-free summer, Smart added.
On Tuesday, Alberta reported 1,246 new COVID-19 cases and 18 more deaths; Saskatchewan logged 446 new infections and 10 new deaths.
There were 1,100 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19 on Tuesday, 263 of whom were being treated in the ICU; Saskatchewan had 311 patients in hospital with COVID-19, 65 of them in the ICU.
Both provinces have rates of full vaccination below the rest of Canada, with Alberta and Saskatchewan reporting 73 per cent of its eligible populations fully inoculated.
Dr. Craig Jenne, an infectious disease researcher at the University of Calgary, told Global News that vaccination won’t fix the situation right now.
“Vaccines are not going to get us out of the problem over the next three to four weeks. This is a long-term strategy to prevent infection down the road,” he said.
“But right now we’re at a crisis and it seems really the only solution we have with that crisis is keep adding more beds.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that the federal government is ready to help the provinces.
“I’ve asked my office to reach out directly to the premiers’ officers and I hope to be speaking with Premier Kenney tomorrow — and Premier Moe soon as well — to again reiterate our commitment to support the people of Alberta and Saskatchewan who are facing an extraordinarily difficult and heartbreaking situation right now,” he said.
During a COVID-19 update Tuesday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was asked if he had declined federal help that was offered last week.
“The Canadian Armed Forces has a very minimal health capacity … in medical personnel,” he said.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe told radio talk show host John Gormley that his province hasn’t asked for help yet.
“We haven’t (asked for help) at this point, and that’s not to say we won’t have discussions about that this week or as we move forward if we’re not able to find a peak in these numbers and in our hospitalization numbers,” he said on the show.
Dr. Cory Neudorf, interim senior medical health officer with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, told Global News that Saskatchewan will likely need federal help “very soon.”
“We have a situation in Saskatchewan and Alberta right now with the critical care unit in our hospitals rapidly filling up and at or above capacity,” he said.
“There are some hospitals in both Saskatchewan and Alberta that could use their help immediately.”
Smart said Canadians have a “duty and a commitment” to help.
“Because at the end of the day, it’s the people of Alberta and Saskatchewan – patients, families, communities and health workers – who are impacted by this,” she said.
“This is a time for governments, businesses, and citizens to step up and do the right thing. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures – and that time is now.”
As for Neudorf, he said Canadians should pay attention to the COVID-19 crisis in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“Really the best way out of this is going to be trying to get much higher coverage rates in those who are eligible for a vaccine as soon as possible, and while we’re waiting for that immunity to take effect, a return to less social mixing in the population,” he said.
“I think other provinces, until you reach those kinds of immunization coverage rates, should be careful about lifting restrictions too soon because the (Delta) variant can take off very quickly.”
– with files from Global News and The Canadian Press.