June 18th, 2024

Alberta facing a new health crisis

By Lethbridge Herald on August 27, 2021.

Shannon Phillips – MLA for Lethbridge West

Over the past year and a half, I have become frighteningly used to using this space to talk about crises in our health system. 

Now, to be fair, much of that stress and strain on our system and the incredible doctors, nurses, and other vital health workers has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which until recently was largely out of our control.

 There can be no doubt that our provincial government had made a bad situation worse over the course of the pandemic, but there still remains the fact that our system had been fighting back one of the worst public health catastrophes in a century.

In June, I expressed hope that we were approaching the end of the public health crisis, that vaccines were going in arms, and that transmission was quickly trending downward. Though I remained skeptical of Premier Kenney’s assertions that we would be having the “best summer ever,” and that our lives would inexorably return to normal, I did have a sense that things were improving. I feared less for seniors in our community, and I hoped that our healthcare workers would have some time to rest and receive the thanks of a grateful province.

Unfortunately, we have moved to an entirely new crisis in our health system: one that is entirely the fault of cynical politicians in Edmonton who have made myopic decisions that have put the health of our families and community at risk.

The threat of COVID-19, and particularly the Delta variant, is becoming an increasing concern in Alberta. 

We are now reporting case numbers that would have seemed familiar in February, and positivity rates similar to what we saw during some of our worst days in May. This is a searing indictment of the Kenney Government’s approach to public health measures, and demonstrates just how wrong the UCP’s Open for Summer plan was and remains. 

Perhaps even more troubling is the fact that had the government followed through with its initial plans, we likely wouldn’t have even known how bad things are due to plans to stop widespread testing.

So it appears as though we are approaching deja vu, all over again. Rising case counts, r-values above 1, and positivity rates above 10 per cent. 

Unfortunately, we are in the midst of a fourth wave, this time with an even more formidable foe in Delta. 

This would be a challenge at the best of times for our health system.

Anyone who has needed to access primary care in our city likely knows first hand just how bad things are here in Southern Alberta. 

Tens of thousands of Lethbridge and area residents have lost their family physician over the last several months, and those physicians that remain are overworked and burdened by a toxic relationship with the provincial government. 

I’ve heard in my office story after story of parents needing to take their kids to see a doctor, only having to wait inordinate amounts of time, or be told by 811 to simply take their child to the emergency room. 

Family physicians are the necessary front lines of our health system – they provide the care that keeps us out of costly hospital care – and the Kenney government’s continued poor treatment is creating nothing short of a crisis of care in our city and region.

In addition to the increasing chorus of constituents I hear from on a daily basis who share stories about a lack of access to proper care, physicians and other health workers from many specialties are sounding an alarm as well.

 Whether it is Emergency physicians expressing concern about the availability of beds in their Emergency Departments, or pediatricians pleading with the government to keep public health measures in place to protect kids during the pandemic, it becomes clearer by the day that Premier Kenney and his UCP government are failing to meet the moment, and that they are actively putting our public healthcare system at risk by starving it.

As damning as all of these things are, perhaps Premier Kenney and his team believe that they are instead focused on the commitment to jobs and the economy on which they were elected more than two years ago. 

At this point, however, it’s exceedingly clear that we can’t have a strong economy and job growth without a public health system that is functioning and fighting back against the pandemic. 

How many times must Albertans go through these endless cycles of false-start reopenings, only to be laid off again once the inevitable case count spikes upward?

We know public healthcare works. It’s a bedrock principle of our public life in this country – a promise that we make to one another. We need a government that believes in it, and is committed to ensuring it continues to work.

 If we are ever to recover economically from this pandemic, we would be wise to place this at the centre of our public conversation in the coming months and years. There can be no recovery without a strong public health system.

As always, if you need the services of my office, feel free to contact lethbridge.west@assembly.ab.ca or call 403-329-4644. 

If you haven’t already, please get vaccinated – you can find out more about the vaccine, as well as where you can get one by visiting alberta.ca/covid19-vaccine.

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Dennis Bremner

I have some very simple questions that I am sure you will not answer. What would the NDP do about the problem? According to Stats Canada(not my numbers, theirs) the highest paid Doctors and Nurses are Alberta Doctors and Nurses. So would the NDP pay them more, how would you retain Doctors and Nurses in Southern Alberta? Is the problem Pay? You don’t seem to say?
Would you and your party once again embark on creating a Drug Care and Treatment Center in Lethbridge if elected that would attract addicts within 100 miles in all directions? How would that NOT tax the already overburdened health care system in Lethbridge Ms Phillips?
As a personal example, I waited in Emerg for 2.5 hours at 2AM while 6 addicts flew through the door and were immediately served ahead of me. So it would be logical to assume that our care was delayed by these Emergencies, correct? So how do you propose to make health care better in Lethbridge, when Doctors and Nurses see that you and your party want to set up the provinces biggest clubhouse for addicts here? Do you think Doctors will rush to Lethbridge if we explode once again with addicts? How do you square that circle?
Spearman seems to think the quality of life has not suffered here, perhaps he lives on the West Side with you? Most Doctors/Nurses purchased and at great personal expense renovated houses just off 6th Ave in the downtown area heading towards the Hospital. They have watched how Spearman’s and the NDP dream of a treatment facility populated the small parks with drug addicts, needles and piles of feces in their neighborhood! Do you really think they want to live here or did you not think of that?
The Doctors and Nurses Neighborhoods were among the first to be robbed blind (while at work) once the addicts branched out from robbing the North side, and you seem to think the Doctors are leaving Lethbridge because of the UCP, I just have to Laugh!!
Just out of curiosity did you offer up any solutions Ms Phillips in securing the Doctors and Nurses Personal Property while they were fighting on the frontlines of COVID? Why not? If you wanted them to stay here, that’s probably what you had to do! You seem to think that your Master Plan of a Drug Treatment Facility South, has no implications on Residents. That we are just a bunch of taxpayers and can’t figure things out on our own and Politics is only for exceptionally smart people?
You obviously have an “amazing insight” that Doctors are leaving (because you can count), why did you not attempt to prevent it? I know why you didn’t, Ms Phillips, you really don’t understand why they are leaving, so let me help you Ms Phillips.
“A Doctor pulls a 12 hour shift or 2 in a row, comes home to find a pile of Human Feces in his driveway and his BMW broken into and the car has been keyed. He opens his shed and his children’s bikes are stolen, he grabs the door to his house only to find it has been kicked in and his house ransacked. Your theory is “its the UCP” (Gotta laugh again) . Do you think his/her fellow Doctors feel safe living in the area? Do you think maybe other Doctors/Nurses/Professionals in the same area would not start re-analyzing their life here? Personally I think its time you give your head a shake and start thinking about Lethbridge and stop being so single minded. You are just as responsible for this mess as the UCP is, so start thinking on ways to solve this problem!
Its easy to criticize the UCP and believe me when I say, I am with you on your criticism, but much like the UCP you seem to be a whole lot of talk with ZERO Answers! So your intent is to no doubt get elected again, not on any particular skill set, but just based on UCP unpopularity? Remember all the unfunded promises you made when minister? Remember the only real thing you got funded locally was our AMAZING SCS?
So when you are elected again, based on “you are the only party left” have a master plan to save this City not destroy it, after all, you have proven you are more then willing to throw Downtown Businesses under the bus, so one always worries whom is next Ms Phillips?

Last edited 2 years ago by Dennis Bremner

OS: It is funny that when the Alberta MDs voted 98% no confidence in the UCP health minister Shandro, they did not mention theft and the SCS. Instead they mentioned chaos, disrespect, funding cuts, authoritarian imposition of new rules and restriction, ripping up the existing govt agreement with doctors.
The doctors who have publicly commented on their reasons for leaving AB mention some or all of those things. You seem to be misinformed and to be misinforming.

Dennis Bremner

and you bought that hook line and sinker? There is less than 2 years left in the present Gov! MANY governments have cut back spending during financial crisis, with healthcare and unions taking the brunt. No one left the province then?
I know of 5 Doctors that left Lethbridge in the last year that did not leave the province. They left for Camrose, 2 to Cochrane, Calgary and the other to Brooks. So the mass exodus from Alberta may be true but I am talking about Lethbridge, as Phillips Reps Lethbridge West/Downtown! The exodus from Lethbridge to other parts of Alberta is also true, so I ask her why in response to this from Ms Phillips
I quote Ms Phillips “Anyone who has needed to access primary care in our city likely knows first hand just how bad things are here in Southern Alberta. 
Tens of thousands of Lethbridge and area residents have lost their family physician over the last several months, and those physicians that remain are overworked and burdened by a toxic relationship with the provincial government. ” ENQUOTE
Grinandbearit, I really do not care what the Union says or what you think is happening in Alberta. I was one of those people that lost my Doctor to Cochrane, NOT BC or SASK or any other province. So while looking for another doctor I asked where the others left too….It was not as you say or even suggest, so get on the same page as people that have informed themselves first before accusing anyone of being uninformed!
So now tell me again what you think Lethbridges problem is, not Alberta’s please, using your informed indepth knowledge. Or do I have to explain to you a Unions Official Position vs an Individual Doctors motives?

Last edited 2 years ago by Dennis Bremner

Here are data summarized annually by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta. https://cpsa.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Q1-2021-Quarterly-Report.pdf
According to those data, the number of doctors leaving AB (NOT just Lethbridge) has increased to a great extent. Your anecdotes may suit your politics, but not the real data.

Dennis Bremner

Now you are just plain embarrassing yourself. Did you read page 6 in the link you provided, obviously not! Page 6 shows a Net loss of 4 physicians over an a 3 month period in the South Zone, thats what we are talking about here the SOUTH ZONE, specifically in Lethbridge as pointed out by Ms Phillips.
So you are arguing numbers of exits from Alberta, its not my argument and its not Phillips comments. So try to stick to what WE are talking about and that is Lethbridge.
So we had a NET loss of 4 south zone. If we now break down the South Zone to Lethbridge we see we lost 9 Doctors over a 15 month period. Brooks gained and so did Medicine Hat. The change was 4 physicians over a 3 month period, part of the 5 I explained were still in AB over the last 6 months!
Which means we had Doctors leave Lethbridge and those same Doctors go to other places in Alberta. Thats not politics, thats what happened. What Phillips is doing is politics, she makes it sound like WE (Lethbridge) lost our Doctors to another province, I am here to tell you at least 5 of those 9 did not leave the province as stated. The previous 4 from earlier last year, I do not know where they went
Do you notice the Report does state retirements of 134 Physicians, my bet some of the 4 I cannot account for retired, considering we are the third largest city. Also if you consider that the Report considers RETIREMENT as OUTFLOW, then Page 10 is actually showing we are doing about the same as the National Average and if Doctors did not get old we would be up almost 200 Physicians in this report. The report also indicates 59 Graduated Doctors from local Universities also left the province. Mind you they do not state how many were Foreigners who studied here. You are being selective in your readings. So there is some grandstanding here, you are doing it, Phillips is doing it and so is this report, but, the report still shows a Net inflow to Alberta. Enough of an inflow to offset 134 retirees, and those that exited the province! They are just not coming to Lethbridge…wonder why?
Report 4 page 10 shows a TOTAL INFLOW OF 599 , TOTAL OUTFLOW OF 543 showing a NET INFLOW of 56 doctors to Alberta during the 4 most recent quarters , so where are you reading this Mass Exodus” Grinandbearit? , they are still coming to Alberta, just not coming to Lethbridge. So why? Is it because Professionals can see the writing on the wall……drug city with Nutbars leading the charge?
So, Grinandbearit, please find someone else to snow, someone that cannot read perhaps?
I am not arguing there were physicians leaving the province, I am asking why our physicians did not leave the province, yet they left Lethbridge, for other parts of Alberta. Other parts of Alberta are gaining physicians (56) yet we are losing them?
I know why, I would be prepared to bet, the writing they see on the wall, is an NDP led Drug City, in the next election cycle! Phillips plus Myashiro will clear out every addict within 100 miles to fill our downtown and MSTH/Alpha House will help any way they can! You and the rest of the complacent Lethbridge Residents let this group win, and I can assure you, you have seen nothing when it comes to OUTFLOW from LETHBRIDGE!
It would appear both you and Phillips are the ones playing politics here Grinandbearit because you did not even read your posted report, just like Phillips!

Last edited 2 years ago by Dennis Bremner

There are approximately 14-16% of Canadians who don’t have a family physician. Easily verifiable on a search. According to Phillips Kenney and Shandro have a big reach a big reach. Nothing but rhetoric, drivel and identity politics from this MLA. Agree with Old School, what are your solutions besides another shoot up palace.

Southern Albertan

Agreed. One would think, that if money talks, measures would be taken to get Alberta’s COVID pandemic under better control. Now, businesses are feeling they have to do the measures they believe have to be used to stay open. As long as Alberta struggles with these high rates of COVID, our economy will be in jeopardy. Kenney UCP, where are you?