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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.