CAF, Red Cross, and health-care staff from other provinces heading to Alberta hospitals
Premier Jason Kenney has announced other provinces will assist Alberta’s overwhelmed health-care system.
He says the province is also finalizing arrangements with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to bring eight to 10 ICU-trained staff members, who will likely be deployed in Edmonton. This will help staff two additional ICU beds.
The province is also expecting up to 20 medical staff from the Red Cross, some with general training and others with ICU experience. They will be sent to the Red Deer Regional Hospital.
Newfoundland and Labrador have agreed to send six ICU-trained staff to Fort McMurray, to staff an additional four to five ICU beds.
Currently, there are a total of 307 patients in Alberta ICUs – 247 of them with COVID-19.
In a statement to CTV News, AHS said over the past seven days, the number of patients in ICUs increased by six per cent with the overall provincial ICU capacity at 83 per cent.
The North zone leads the province for ICU capacity, operating at 100 per cent capacity. Edmonton is at 86 per cent, white the South zone is at 81 per cent.
VACCINE MANDATE FOR ALTA. PUBLIC SERVANTS
The premier also announced that the more than 25,000 Alberta public service employees will be required to show proof of vaccination, or regular negative test results.
Public servants will need their first dose by Oct. 31 and second dose by Nov. 30, with exemptions available for those with a medical condition.
Unvaccinated employees will need to provide a negative PCR or rapid test result every 72 hours at their own expense.
Kenney says while the rate of first dose vaccinations in the eligible population jumped from 78 per cent to nearly 84 per cent since Sept. 3, more must be done to encourage vaccination across the province.
Tim Grant, the head of the public service, said staff members refusing to comply with the vaccine mandate will not be fired but will be placed on unpaid leave.
School boards are also being asked to implement similar vaccine policies to help drive vaccination rates.
When asked if a similar policy would include elected officials and their staff, Kenney said there are ongoing discussions with the opposition and speaker of the house.
“A final protocol has not been agreed to,” Kenney said. “There is a constitutional issue we have to carefully think through.
“You can’t prohibit an elected member from entering the chamber,” he added. “We are trying to sort out how to apply a policy like this while recognizing that long-standing constitutional principle.”
COVID-19 DEATH TOLL CONTINUES TO CLIMB
Twenty more deaths related to COVID-19 were reported in the last 24 hours, raising the total provincial death toll to 2,717.
There are now 20,255 active infections in Alberta, after 1,706 new cases were reported Thursday.
The province said 17,590 tests were completed on Wednesday, translating to a positivity rate of 9.6 percent.
'UCP ARE SADLY ACTING LAST'
David Shepherd, health critic, thanked all the ICU workers from outside Alberta coming to the province, as well as CAF and Red Cross members.
“I know this aid is much appreciated,” Shepherd said. “We will need more help in the coming weeks.”
While the provincial public service vaccine mandate is welcomed by the opposition, Shepherd said the announcement should have come weeks ago.
“Other provinces such as Manitoba, Ontario, and New Brunswick have all moved in this direction,” he said. “Saskatchewan, which is experiencing its own devastating fourth wave of COVID-19 made this announcement two weeks ago. Their mandate comes into effect tomorrow.
“So once again, Jason Kenney and the UCP are sadly acting last.”
Shepherd said that the official opposition has not received any communication from the UCP about implementing a vaccine mandate for MLAs and political staff.
"We support vaccination," he added. "As the official opposition, I am proud to report that all 24 of our MLAs and our 30 caucus staff are fully vaccinated.
"It's time for leadership," Shepherd said. "It's time for us to send a unified message as elected officials to Albertans that the vaccines are safe and they are our best defence against the COVID-19 virus."