A UCP MLA is under fire after he suggested that Alberta’s public health authority is to blame for “unacceptably low” ICU bed levels as COVID-19 admissions rise in the province.
“ICU bed levels available to the public fell unacceptably low during the cold and flu season and a prediction of the 4th wave,” Lac Ste. That’s what Anne-Parkland, MLA, Shane Getson, said in a Facebook post Saturday. “Therefore,” crunch and load “is on the system.
“The wave hit, but did AHS not staff the beds enough to meet their own predictions?”
Getson aimed at the salaries of those who run Alberta Health Services, and appointed Dr. Verna Yiu with a link to a 2016 article on the salaries of AHS President and CEO.
In a follow-up post, Getson suggested that vaccine pass systems are a distraction to prevent the public from holding AHS accountable for maintaining adequate ICU bed capacity in the province.
In a statement, AHS defended its efforts to add capacity, noting that the health authority has added 195 additional ICU surge spaces during the fourth wave – more than double the provincial baseline of 173 ICU beds, a total of 368 beds.
“Adding ICU capacity is not easy,” spokesman Gregory Harris said in an email. “ICU patients require highly trained, specialized doctors and nurses, and the level of care is extremely complex.
“Our biggest challenge now in this fourth wave is to find healthcare professionals to adequately and safely staff the extra beds. Our ability to do this is extremely limited compared to previous waves.”
Edmonton-City Center MLA David Shepherd, NDP health critic, called Getson’s comments “ignorant and tone-deaf.”
He said he was particularly “amazed” at the time of the criticism.
“That he would make these comments now, at a time when our hospitals are overwhelmed by COVID patients, including people from his community who are in Edmonton hospitals, because his government did not take the fourth wave threat seriously,” said Shepherd.
“MLA Getson talks about how AHS should have seen this coming, they should have been prepared. Where was he?
“Dr. Verna Yiu has shown more leadership in the midst of this crisis than Jason Kenney has ever done, certainly than MLA Getson has and any member of the UCP Assembly in protecting Albertans’ health.”
Shepherd called on Alberta’s new health minister Jason Copping to publicly condemn Getson’s comments.
CBC requests for comment from Getson’s office and Copping through a UCP assembly reporter were not returned Saturday.
On social media, health professionals and members of the public also threw their support behind AHS and Yiu, including several tweets with the hashtag #thankYiu.
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Alberta’s fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit 20,040 active cases Friday — more than twice as many as any other province or territory.
As of Friday’s report, there were 1,061 people in the hospital with COVID-19, of which 243 were in intensive care.