Without timely and accurate information about the COVID-19 situation in Alberta, doctors and other healthcare workers are finding it difficult to navigate through the fifth wave of the pandemic.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health in the province, said that she does not know anything about the acute care planning being done by Alberta Health Services. Dr. Verna Yiu, the president of Alberta Health Services, claimed that they are working on their response to increase the number of intensive care units and space to accommodate the influx of COVID-19 patients in hospitals. However, specific details of the plan were not divulged to the media and to other relevant stakeholders in the medical field.
The reported number of new COVID-19 cases is also not reflective of the actual COVID-19 situation in Alberta. This is because most citizens are unable to undergo the PCR test due to the limitations imposed by the government. Only healthcare workers, correctional facility staff, and travelers coming from abroad can take a PCR test. Others have to make use of the rapid antigen test, which are not included in the case count.
In effect, information about outbreaks is not being tracked anymore in this fifth wave. Healthcare workers are then left unaware of the current status of outbreaks and how many are affected.
The regulations in Alberta are also not updated. N95 masks are already being recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer. These masks offer better personal protection, especially for healthcare workers who have relatively high levels of exposure to the COVID-19 virus. However, Alberta has not issued any similar advisories.
Some doctors feel as if they are left on their own to manage the COVID-19 situation in Alberta. An emergency room doctor based in Calgary, Dr. Joe Vipond, said that there is currently something wrong with the healthcare system, but the Alberta Health Services doesn’t want others to know about it. Dr. Vipond said that Dr. Yiu and other government officials involved in addressing the COVID-19 situation in Alberta should communicate with the public and all the healthcare workers at the frontlines of the fifth wave of COVID-19.
A healthcare worker at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Dr. Neeja Bakshi, posted her photo after working at the COVID-19 ward. She used the hashtag “RunningonEmpty” and encouraged other frontline workers to follow suit. This is to put pressure on the government to communicate with its citizens and healthcare workers about the actual COVID-19 situation in Alberta.
Healthcare workers should know what the government will do in terms of increasing the capacity of intensive care units. This also involves providing information on how many beds will be provided, by when, and who will be designated to maintain the units.
Without information and effective leadership, the morale of healthcare workers will continue to decline. Having a long-term plan to address the fifth wave will provide healthcare workers with the necessary information so that they can act accordingly. This will ensure them that the government is working with them to create a better COVID-19 situation in Alberta.
The Current COVID-19 Situation in Alberta, as Reported
As of January 19, 2022, 1,101 individuals were hospitalized and 108 individuals required intensive care services due to infection with COVID-19. This resulted in an 86% utilization rate of the available ICU beds in the province. The utilization rate of the ICU capacity was measured to be at 120% if the beds added for the surge of cases were not made available.
Earlier this week, Alberta Health Services also reported that 1,007 of the COVID-19 patients at that time were below 18 years old. Eight of these children were admitted to the intensive care unit.
The positivity rate of the province was 38%, which is much higher than the 5% positivity rate established by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be acceptable. This shows that out of the 10,005 tests conducted, 3,837 yielded a positive result. In total, there are 67,437 active cases in Alberta. However, this is an underestimate of the actual number of COVID-19 cases because not everyone gets tested.
The COVID-19 situation in Alberta needs to be regularly monitored and communicated to the general public and healthcare workers. Timely information is crucial during this pandemic because it serves as the basis for creating evidence-based decisions and plans. With the increase in the number of COVID-19 patients during the fifth wave, more and more healthcare workers are getting tired with long shifts, a surge of patients coming in, and a lack of resources to effectively manage the health concerns of these patients. On top of that, they are left in the dark about matters that directly concern them. This requires prompt solutions by the government so that the healthcare system can receive the necessary support to prevent its collapse.