May 29th, 2024

Notley pressures UCP to release Omicron estimates

By Dale Woodard - Lethbridge Herald on January 4, 2022.

In light of new Omicron COVID hospitalization figures from Ontario, Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley is calling upon the UCP government to release the Alberta Health Services’ two-week hospitalization forecast.
Speaking at a virtual press conference Monday afternoon, Notley called on Alberta premier Jason Kenney to make those numbers available to Albertans.
“Over the past week, both through official government numbers and informal reports from health care workers, we have seen soaring numbers of COVID-19 cases,” said Notley. “These numbers are the highest by far of any point in this pandemic. Even if a much smaller fraction of these cases produces severe illness compared to previous variants, the sheer volume of Omicron cases may overwhelm Alberta’s health care system.
“So for that reason, today I am calling on Jason Kenney and the UCP to tell the truth to Albertans about the threat to our hospitals and everyone who relies on them that is posed by the Omicron variant.”
On Monday, the Ontario government announced more COVID-19 restrictions brought on by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant as the province moves to a modified Step 2 of the reopening plan.
The new measures were announced as hospitalizations due to COVID-19 and case counts increased across the province.
“This threat is not just speculation,” said Notley. “Public health officials in Ontario have reached this conclusion and announced it publicly (Monday).”
In a graphic they released today, officials from the Ontario government say ‘Projected COVID-19-related admissions are expected to result in capacity being overwhelmed.’
“This is an extremely sobering statement from the largest province in Canada,” said Notley. “In the worst-case scenario, officials are projecting a sevenfold increase in COVID-related hospitalizations in just two weeks.”
Notley said Alberta’s hospitals are already in an “extremely” vulnerable state.
“To be clear, unlike Ontario, our hospitals were hit very hard in the fourth wave and this created unimaginable stress on our front-line health care workers, stress from which they are still recovering.”
Notley said although the high rate of hospital admissions in the fall dropped a great deal, they did not resolve completely.
“As a result, we are starting the Omicron wave at a much higher level of COVID hospitalization than most other provinces,” she said. “So the prospect of yet another wave crashing into our healthcare system is extremely worrying, not only for the Albertans who may be infected with the virus, but also for every single Albertan who is waiting for surgery to address an injury or a serious illness or who may need treatment they are not aware of yet.”
The Ontario government put the facts on the table for the people of Ontario on Monday, said Notley, who then called on the UCP to do the same immediately.
“We know Alberta Health Services maintains a daily two-week forecast for hospital admissions. We’ve seen this document many times.
“The version of that document dated Jan. 3 is sitting on a government computer right now. Simply put, Jason Kenney and the UCP know what the threat to Alberta hospitals looks like and they must tell Albertans the truth. They should begin immediately assessing the health care workforce, the rate of illness among health care staff and our ability to keep hospitals running properly should a surge in cases in those hospitals occur.”
Notley said she knows people may be asking if Alberta should be following Ontario’s lead in terms of the measures that were announced in that province Monday.
“I don’t know the answer to that question and I can’t until we have the facts about what the coming days and weeks will mean for our hospitals. These facts are available and they should be shared with every Albertan.”
Notley conceded the Omicron variant is new and it is evolving and everyone is learning as they go.
“So quite honestly it wouldn’t be fair to expect anyone to have all the right answers right away or all the time and that actually includes this UCP government,” she said. “However, we do have a right to expect to see the information that they have, just as Canadians in other provinces have been able to do. That data is available right now and the UCP must share it with Albertans.”

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