Just days after saying help offered to Alberta by the federal government and Newfoundland and Labrador was not immediately necessary, Premier Jason Kenney announced Thursday that his province has now agreed to accept help as the health-care system is under “enormous pressure” because of the fourth wave of COVID-19.
“We appreciate reciprocal offers,” Kenney said at a news conference, noting Alberta has offered assistance to other provinces during the COVID-19 pandemic as well and still has citizens from other province’s in its hospitals’ ICUs.
Kenney said eight to 10 staff from the Canadian Armed Forces will be coming, likely to CFB Edmonton, along with up to 20 trained staff from the Canadian Red Cross, who will likely be deployed to the hard-hit Red Deer Regional Hospital. He also said his government is in the process of finalizing plans to bring in a medical team from Newfoundland, likely to be deployed to Fort McMurray’s hospital.
“These contributions may helps us to staff four or five additional ICU beds,” the premier said, noting that every little bit helps.
The announcement that help has now been officially accepted comes as Alberta Health Services says 309 patients are currently in Alberta’s ICUs, with “the vast majority” of them being positive for COVID-19.
Kenney said with bed capacity having been expanded to 372 available ICU beds, the province is using 83 per cent of its ICU capacity.
“(This) has come at a real cost,” the premier said, noting the large numbers of surgeries and procedures that have been postponed as a result, and the “huge stress” health-care workers are under as they deal with such high numbers of seriously ill patients.
Speaking at the same news conference, AHS president and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu said the health authority has added 23 additional surge spaces in the last seven days alone and that without the extra spaces, Alberta’s use of its ICU capacity would be at 179 per cent.
“We continue to see more patients needing critical care,” she said.
Kenney said that the reason he did not accept offers of help from Ottawa or Newfoundland until now was because his government is “trying to be conscious about the resources of other governments.”
“We’ve tried to be transparent with them about where we are at,” he said, adding that conversations have been and continue to be ongoing when it comes to bringing in help for the province.
Alberta to require provincial employees to be vaccinated or provide negative test results
Kenney announced Thursday that after a meeting of his government’s COVID-19 cabinet committee, a decision was made to require provincial employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Employees will have until Nov. 30 to submit proof of full vaccination. For those who do not get vaccinated, they’ll be required to produce a negative PCR test result or rapid test result within 72 hours of every scheduled shift and pay for that themselves. Alternately, employees who don’t get vaccinated will be forced to “obtain an accommodation based on the Alberta Human Rights Act.”
Tim Grant, Alberta’s public service commissioner, was asked by a report I the government would fire employees who do not abide by the new vaccination rules.
“We’re not going to fire anyone,” he said. “We would put them on unpaid leave.”
The government said it will also be recommending to school boards that they implement the same requirements for their staff.
When a reporter asked Kenney why the government was not itself requiring school staff to be vaccinated, the premier said his government does not have the legal authority to make that a requirement as they are not technically staff of the Alberta government.
More to come….
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