COVID-19: Kenney says Alberta to accept help from feds, N.L as health system under ‘enormous pressure’

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.

Read more: Alberta records 34 new COVID-19 deaths, ICU admissions climb as Kenney discusses crisis with Trudeau

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.

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“These contributions may helps us to staff four or five additional ICU beds,” the premier said, noting that every little bit helps.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Kenney announces Alberta will accept federal help to protect health-care system' COVID-19: Kenney announces Alberta will accept federal help to protect health-care system

COVID-19: Kenney announces Alberta will accept federal help to protect health-care system

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.

Click to play video: 'Alberta health-care workers asked to reach out for support after death of ICU nurse' Alberta health-care workers asked to reach out for support after death of ICU nurse

Alberta health-care workers asked to reach out for support after death of ICU nurse

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.

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“We continue to see more patients needing critical care,” she said.

Read more: ‘Extraordinary measures’ needed to fight COVID-19 in Alberta, Saskatchewan: CMA

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.”

READ MORE: Alberta adds COVID-19 measures, vaccine passport in effort to prevent health-care system’s collapse

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.

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“We’re not going to fire anyone,” he said. “We would put them on unpaid leave.”

Click to play video: 'Kenney announces new proof of COVID-19 vaccination policy for Alberta public servants' Kenney announces new proof of COVID-19 vaccination policy for Alberta public servants

Kenney announces new proof of COVID-19 vaccination policy for Alberta public servants

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….

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Kenney says ‘no other measures… currently under consideration’' COVID-19: Kenney says ‘no other measures… currently under consideration’

COVID-19: Kenney says ‘no other measures… currently under consideration’

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