HSAA joins major health care unions, more than 400 doctors calling for a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown

“I encourage you to share this letter with your colleagues, friends and loved ones. It’s up to us to keep the pressure on the Kenney government to do the right thing and join us in protecting Albertans during this pandemic.” — Mike Parker, HSAA President

Calgary (16 Nov. 2020) — The Health Sciences Association of Alberta has joined the Alberta Union of Public Employees, the United Nurses of Alberta, and more than 400 doctors in a letter to Premier Jason Kenney to immediately institute a circuit breaker lockdown to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

Voluntary measures no longer sufficient

“I am proud to have added my name and HSAA’s backing to a letter calling on Jason Kenney to immediately take action to stop the surge of COVID-19 cases in Alberta,” said HSAA President Mike Parker. “We have reached a juncture where only strong and decisive mandatory measures can prevent our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed,” says the letter.

The letter calls for specific action to be taken:

  • Those who can to be directed to work from home
  • Limiting contacts to one household or a small support bubble
  • Restrictions on group recreation and sports activities
  • Suspension of group indoor activities, including indoor dining, bars, casinos, religious services and theatres

Time-limited measures could prevent need for complete lockdown

The letter states that “the time for incremental measures has passed, and voluntary measures, requested October 9, have not blunted the rise in cases. Our testing system is strained, and contact tracing capacities have collapsed. We see no other way to break chains of transmission and decrease cases, than to implement a ‘circuit breaker’ of short, strict measures. Similar restrictions have been recently implemented in other Canadian provinces, the United Kingdom, and Germany.”

“The evolving evidence suggests that strong, time-limited measures will not only minimize the second wave but could prevent the need for the complete lockdowns that become inevitable when the health system becomes overwhelmed. A failure to control COVID-19 spread means we cannot expect our economy to recover quickly or strongly.”

“We are proud of Alberta’s health system and the quality of care we provide, but we believe that is in grave jeopardy unless urgent action is taken,” the letter concludes.

The full text of the letter

November 12, 2020 

The Honourable Jason Kenney MLA 

Premier, Province of Alberta 

Office of the Premier 

307 Legislature Building 

10800-97 Avenue 

Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2B6

  • CC Honourable Tyler Shandro MLA, Minister for Health; Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health 

 

Dear Premier Kenney, 

As health-care workers we feel it is our duty to warn of the impending health system crisis resulting from the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 in Alberta. We have reached a juncture where only strong and decisive mandatory measures can prevent our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. 

We therefore urge the Government of Alberta to institute a set of time-limited public health restrictions that would consist of: 

  • Directives to work from home for anyone who is able.
  • Limiting contacts to those within the household or support bubble.
  • Restrictions on group recreation/sports activities.
  • Suspension of group indoor activities (including indoor dining, bars, casinos, religious services, and theatres).

Due to their vital importance, we should aim to keep schools open for in-person learning options. 

We are seeing an exponential rise in cases, high levels of test positivity, and already have almost double the number of hospitalizations seen in the first wave. Intensive care unit admissions and deaths have also increased markedly in the past week. Even if transmissions drop today, hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths will continue to rise for weeks as current infections progress.

There are outbreaks in at least nine acute care hospitals, endangering vulnerable patients and resulting in bed and staffing shortages. As staff become ill or must quarantine, we do not have appropriately qualified individuals to fill their roles. Outbreaks in care facilities are also worsening bed shortages in hospitals as patients cannot return to their care facility where there is an outbreak. 

The Edmonton zone has already deferred 30 per cent of non-urgent surgeries to account for the burdens on the health system. More delays of foundational health services (surgeries, cancer screenings, and diagnostics) will be imminent and will be severely consequential if we do not act now.

We have witnessed how quickly hospitals in Winnipeg, the United States, Belgium, and Austria have become overwhelmed. The time for incremental measures has passed, and voluntary measures, requested October 9, have not blunted the rise in cases. Our testing system is strained, and contact tracing capacities have collapsed. We see no other way to break chains of transmission and decrease cases, than to implement a “circuit breaker” of short, strict measures. Similar restrictions have been recently implemented in Winnipeg, Toronto, the United Kingdom, and Germany. 

We recognize that these restrictions have their own harms, and we would urge the government to provide supports for businesses impacted by these restrictions. The evolving evidence suggests that strong, time-limited measures will not only minimize the second wave but could prevent the need for the complete lockdowns that become inevitable when the health system becomes overwhelmed. A failure to control COVID-19 spread means we cannot expect our economy to recover quickly or strongly. 

We are proud of Alberta’s health system and the quality of care we provide, but we believe that it is in grave jeopardy unless urgent action is taken. Please help us continue to care for the people of Alberta safely. 

Sincerely, 

  • Leyla Asadi, MD, MPH, FRCPC (Infectious Diseases) 
  • Tehseen Ladha, MD, MPH, FRCPC (Pediatrics) 
  • Christine Gibson, MD, CFFP (PC), FCFP, MMedEd (Family Medicine) 
  • Amy Tan, MD, MSc, CCFP (PC), FCFP (Family Medicine) 
  • Joe Vipond, MD, FRCPC (Emergency Medicine) 
  • Lynora Saxinger, MD, FRCPC, CTrop Med (Infectious Diseases) 
  • Guy Smith, President of AUPE, on behalf of 58,000 members of AUPE (Alberta Union of Public Employees) 
  • Heather Smith, President of UNA, on behalf of 30,000 members of UNA (United Nurses of Alberta) 
  • Mike Parker, President of HSAA, on behalf of 27,000 members of HSAA (Health Sciences Association of Alberta – Union of Healthcare Professionals)

 

 

NUPGE Components
Issues and Campaigns

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE