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Alberta doctors attempting to sound COVID-19 alarm as province reviews Manning report

Alberta's premier says she's considering 90 recommendations made public Wednesday in a report on the province’s pandemic response.

Danielle Smith's review comes as doctors across Alberta warn that COVID-19 is still a very real threat, while calling on the province for more support.

"Our healthcare system, not just in Alberta, but all over Canada is crumbling," said Dr. Neeja Bakshi.

"We are really setting ourselves up for full system failure over the next few months as we go deep into respiratory virus season."

Doctors behind the group Protect Our Province say an ageing population, outdated infrastructure and COVID-19 are pushing hospitals to collapse.

Since late August, there have been 179 COVID-19 outbreaks in Edmonton and 443 across Alberta. The province has seen 1,600 hospitalizations from COVID-19 during that period, compared with 90 as a result of influenza.

There are also 194 people in intensive care, for all reasons including COVID-19, the highest total in the province since February.

The doctors’ warning comes a day after a panel led by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning released its report concluding science should still play a role in future crises, but only as part of a “balanced response” tied to “evidence-informed decision-making.”

The review calls for the premier and cabinet to be the final decision-makers in any crisis response while drawing on the expertise of a chief science officer and a roster of professionals from a range of scientific and other fields.

"Albertans should never have to go through that again. The report's intent is to ensure it never happens again," Manning said Thursday in reference to pandemic restrictions.

The report recommends parents be able to withdraw from masking students in schools, rejects school lockdowns and urges the government to consider "non-scientific" evidence.

Doctors are urging the premier to listen to those on the front lines.

"COVID-19 is not over so the decisions you are making now will affect all of us for the foreseeable future. We can't just use wishful thinking to make this go away, we need good policy," said Dr. Joe Vipond.

He is an emergency room doctor and believes improved policies should include increasing ventilation and filtration in indoor spaces and universal masking in hospitals.

One lawyer believes some of the recommendations in the Manning report would leave policy decisions to the courts.

"It would reverse the onus and make the government have to prove that its emergency responses are justified if anyone rejects that their rights have been infringed," said Eric Adams from the University of Alberta.

"It's just a good old fashioned bad idea. Just because we can do something doesn't mean we should."

The premier says no decisions have been made and she is reviewing the recommendations with caucus.

With files from The Canadian Press Top Stories

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