No direct response for doc’s ICU invite

·3 min read

In an open letter sent Monday, Dr. Paul Parks, the president of the Section of Emergency Medicine within the Alberta Medical Association, invited Premier Jason Kenney and Alberta’s Minister of Health, Jason Copping, to visit one of the province’s intensive care units in an effort to “break the disconnect” between policy makers and health-care workers.

Parks, a local emergency physician, says in the letter, “Alberta is at the edge of a precipice.”

“We need you to see, to hear, to understand what is happening in our hospitals right now. The distance between numbers on a page and the reality inside these walls is impossible to bridge unless you can see for yourselves,” Parks wrote.

“From a distance, it’s easier to look at numbers on a page and persuade yourself that there is still space because you can’t see the manoeuvring behind increasing those numbers. Surge ICU beds are metastasizing into every other part of the hospital, rapidly crowding out every other function our hospital should be able to serve; we are only able to find more space because so many are dying, and urgent surgeries have been postponed indefinitely.

“Even as we create more unconventional beds, we cannot create an endless ability for our health care workers to carry this impossible burden. We will be paying the price of this physical and moral suffering for years to come,” Parks wrote.

Kenney opened Tuesday’s press conference with a statement acknowledging this burden.

“As you know, Alberta’s health-care system is being tested like never before. Hospitalizations and ICU admissions soared in recent weeks,” Kenney said. “Right now, Alberta’s ICU beds are at 82% capacity with new patients admitted every day.”

However, during a question period, Kenney admitted he had not yet read Parks’ letter. When asked if he would accept Parks invitation, he declined to provide an answer and instead stated, “We strongly discourage people who do not have to be there for clinical purposes, from going into hospitals.”

Kenney also said he is “acutely aware from speaking to physicians all the time and other health-care workers, about the extreme stress that they are under.”

Copping said he appreciates the letter but doesn’t believe visiting a hospital at this time would be appropriate as it may interfere with staff’s workload. He stumbled during his address to Park, stating that he’s both “reached out” and will be “reaching out” to him.

Parks confirmed to the News that, as of Wednesday morning, he had not yet heard back from Kenney, Copping, nor any other government or health official CC’d in the letter.

Several other notable officials, including chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw, and Alberta Health Services CEO Verna Yiu, were CC’d in the letter. Parks encourages them to also do what he has invited Kenney and Copping to do; visit an ICU.

“Go see the ICUs, go see the hospitals, go see the overflowing COVID wards,” Parks said. “Go talk to the staff, learn from them and what cost this policy is coming at.”

KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News

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