A UCP MLA is under fire after he suggested Alberta's public health authority is to blame for "unacceptably low" ICU bed levels as COVID-19 hospitalizations soar in the province.
"ICU bed levels that were available for the public dropped unacceptably low coming into cold and flu season and a prediction of the 4th wave," Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland MLA Shane Getson said in a Facebook post Saturday. "Hence the 'crunch and strain' on the system.
"The wave hit, but AHS didn't staff the beds adequately to meet their own predictions?"
Getson took aim at the salaries of those who run Alberta Health Services, singling out Dr. Verna Yiu, with a link to a 2016 article about the AHS president and CEO's salary.
In a follow-up post, Getson suggested that vaccine passport systems are a distraction to prevent the public from keeping AHS accountable for maintaining sufficient ICU bed capacity in the province.
In a statement, AHS defended its efforts to add capacity, noting the health authority has added 195 additional ICU surge spaces during the fourth wave — more than double the provincial baseline of 173 ICU beds, for a total of 368 beds.
"Adding ICU capacity is not simple," spokesperson Gregory Harris said in an email. "ICU patients require highly skilled, specialized physicians and nurses, and the level of care is extremely complex.
"Our biggest challenge now in this fourth wave is finding health-care professionals to appropriately and safely staff those additional beds. Our ability to do this is extremely limited compared to previous waves."
Edmonton-City Centre MLA David Shepherd, the NDP critic for health, called Getson's comments "ignorant and tone deaf."
He said he was especially "astounded" at the timing of the criticism.
"That he would make these comments now, at a time when our hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID patients, including people from his community who are in hospitals in Edmonton because his government failed to take seriously the threat of the fourth wave," Shepherd said.
"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 ever has, certainly than MLA Getson has and any member of the UCP caucus in terms of protecting the health of Albertans."
Shepherd called on Alberta's new health minister Jason Copping to publicly denounce Getson's comments.
CBC requests for comment from Getson's office and Copping through a UCP caucus spokesperson were not returned Saturday.
On social media, health-care workers and members of the public also threw their support behind AHS and Yiu, including several tweets with the hashtag #thankYiu.
Alberta's fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit 20,040 active cases on Friday — more than twice as many as any other province or territory.
As of Friday's report, there were 1,061 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 243 in intensive care beds.