Controversial Alberta doctor Joe Vipond called Alberta a "failed state" over its' response to the fourth wave of COVID-19. He referenced Wikipedia to justify his claim.
According to the website, "A failed state is a political body that has disintegrated to a point where basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign government no longer function properly."
It also writes that a state can fail if the government loses its legitimacy even if it performs its functions properly.
Vipond references Alberta’s "inability" to provide public services during the fourth COVID-19 wave.
Calgary Stampede became COVID-19 scapegoat, no deaths reported
In the lead-up to the Calgary Stampede — Alberta’s first major event since March 2020 — medical professionals from Edmonton wrote a letter raising their concerns on the premier’s "rushed" "Open for Summer" plan.
They cite the reopening plans for BC, and Ontario had not yet lifted all of its restrictions until early September. Both provinces have since mandated proof of vaccination for non-essential businesses.
“It is probable that a majority of citizens in those provinces will have been fully vaccinated by then, which will not be the case in Alberta in July,” wrote the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association. But, its Strategic COVID-19 Pandemic Committee listed it as “probable” that 70 percent of eligible Albertans would receive their first vaccination by the end of June.
According to CBC, 72.8 percent of eligible Albertans were vaccinated with one dose, and 36 percent were fully immunized by July 1.
Alberta reported 76 new cases of COVID-19 out of 6,335 tests, a positivity rate of 1.17 percent at the precipice of Stage Three. The province had 1,055 active COVID-19 cases — the fewest active cases since August 2020.
There were 165 COVID-19 hospitalizations, and of those, 34 were in intensive care units.
Notably, the R-value was 0.75, meaning the virus spread to fewer than one person for each confirmed case, slightly lower from the previous week.
Despite the data reflecting a positive outlook for the province, the letter warned of their concerns on the spread of the Delta variant. They recommended that significant public events like the Calgary Stampede be cancelled or postponed to the autumn after most Albertans have been fully immunized.
An August 15 CBC article reported that 129 people caught COVID-19 at the 10-day festival between July 9 and 18. But Alberta Health said 325 people attended the Stampede during their incubation period for the disease.
However, many attended other activities during that period — meaning that number doesn't translate to cases acquired at the festival.
Only two people were hospitalized.
COVID-19 committee wants elderly, those with multiple comorbidities prioritized in vaccine rollout
The Edmonton committee also recommended that groups at high risk of infection be prioritized for second doses of vaccine, including the elderly, those with complex medical conditions, and essential workers, including those in healthcare.
According to a memorandum sent to EMS staff and contracted service providers on July 10, the change came into effect last month. The memo was circulated online by Vipond. AHS confirmed its legitimacy.
This came to fruition as part of the transition into a "demobilization and active recovery plan," ending operations specific to COVID-19. Despite last month's memorandum acknowledging declining active COVID-19 cases in Alberta, active case counts at the start of August have increased. Some claim the virus is spreading faster in the province than during the third wave.
The R-value in Calgary rose to 1.5 at that time.
AHS said in a written statement Sunday, August 1, that those suspected and confirmed to have COVID-19 would continue to be treated as part of EMS work. Most paramedics were already fully vaccinated, and teams also received full guidance on the necessary precautions.
On July 28, Alberta announced it would safely monitor the impact of the initial changes to the province’s two-phase transition, adapt as needed over the next few weeks, and give more time to vaccinate Albertans.
As of July 29, 71 percent of Albertans 12 and older are fully vaccinated and nearly 80 percent received at least one dose.
Over 80 percent of residents 60 to 69 were fully vaccinated, and those 70 and older had a complete immunization rate exceeding 90 percent .
Effective July 29, isolation for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms and confirmed positive cases was still required. All positive cases would also continue to be notified. However, contact tracers would no longer notify close contacts of exposure but remain in high-risk settings such as acute and continuing care facilities.
The Alberta government said they would no longer make residents — excluding long term care facilities — who tested positive for COVID-19 quarantine as of August 16, though it remains highly recommended. Alberta Health would also stop routine testing for mild symptoms of the virus, except for high-risk situations where large groups of people convene.
COVID-19 testing would remain as needed for high-risk outbreaks, such as in continuing care facilities. The average COVID-19 fatality died at the age of 80.
On July 9, the province announced $400 million in operational funding for new continuing care beds. In total, more than 6,000 beds would be added or replaced to expand and upgrade Alberta’s publicly funded continuing care facilities.
Twenty-four communities were identified through a new and innovative procurement process that required operators to pay for the capital cost of building new beds. This year, 343 beds would be added in Calgary, Edmonton, High Level, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, Valleyview and Westlock. This is in addition to the 2,600 beds added in 26 communities in 2020.
On July 30, Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan said, "In the coming weeks, Alberta’s health system will take steps to make sure that it is ready to support all patients, including those with COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses, like influenza, which health officials expect to increase this year."
He added that the province would bring COVID-19 quarantine, isolation, and other measures in line with those used for influenza and other viruses.
As of August 31, only those with severe symptoms would be tested, including those with comorbidities or pre-existing conditions.
In late July, Premier Jason Kenney said bluntly "that it’s time for the media to stop promoting fear when it comes to COVID-19."
"As Dr. Hinshaw has said, we’re moving from a pandemic to an endemic state of COVID-19," he continued.
Kenney added that COVID-19 numbers would continue to go up and down and that COVID-19 would still be here. He cited vaccination rates among Albertans as a cause for optimism moving forward.
Most fourth wave COVID-19 casualties are 80+, have multiple comorbidities
As of September 9, there were 233,764 cases reported among Albertans under 60. Only 5,330 of those cases resulted in hospitalizations, and of that, 1,087 were transferred to an ICU.
Nearly four in five eligible Albertans received one dose, while over seven in ten are fully vaccinated.
Since March 2020, only 199 Albertans under 60 have died of COVID-19. No minors have been killed from COVID-19 to date.
There are 686 current hospitalizations, of which 169 are in the ICU.
On Thursday, nine COVID-19-related deaths were reported. Three between 60 and 69, two between 70 and 79, and four 80 and older. Albertans 80 and older account for 1,414 of the 2,444 COVID-19 fatalities. Those between 60 and 79 accounted for 830 total deaths.
Those with three or more comorbidities constituted 76 percent of deaths, while those with two and one comorbidities accounted for 13.6 percent and 7.1 percent of deaths. Comorbidities, or pre-existing conditions, include diabetes, hypertension, COPD, cancer, dementia, stroke, liver cirrhosis, cardiovascular diseases (including IHD and congestive heart failure), chronic kidney disease, and immuno-deficiency.
Hypertension or high blood pressure existed in 84.0 percent of COVID-19 fatalities or 2,052 people — cardio-vascular diseases in 52.8 percent of 1,290 deaths, and dementia in 44.4 percent or 1,086 percent deaths.
Only 3.3 percent of Albertans who died from COVID-19 had no pre-existing conditions.
Those hospitalized but not in the ICU and with no pre-existing conditions accounted for one-in-four COVID-19 hospitalizations. Those admitted into the ICU were less at 21.5 percent.
Over two-thirds of non-severe COVID-19 cases or cases that did not require hospitalization had no pre-existing conditions.
Alberta Health found that the average age for COVID-19 cases hospitalized with an ICU stay is 56 years, and for hospitalizations with no ICU stay is 59 years.
The average age for COVID-19 cases not hospitalized is 34 years.
With medical professionals concerned that rising hospitalizations could collapse the healthcare system, the province acted, as AHS redeployed staff to intensive care and critical care beds in Calgary. The province typically had a capacity of 66 ICU beds in the city, but that expanded to 95 to mitigate the influx of COVID-19 patients.
With 16,265 active cases, of which 12,117 are active Delta variant cases, the R-value from August 30 to September 5 continued to decline. Now at 1.12 compared to higher values in late July and August. Though the positivity rate was 11.65 percent during the same span.
The Alberta government acted, cancelling plans to end the mandatory 10-day quarantine requirement for people with confirmed cases of COVID-19, and continuing contact tracing and testing, citing concerns surrounding the Delta variant.
"Horror. That's what awaits Albertans in the near future," tweeted Vipond, "and our leaders actively brought this on us."
He added that the province of Alberta made the fourth wave an "intentionally cruel wave."
AHS mandates COVID-19 vaccines for staff, including long-term care facilities
In the same Edmonton letter, the COVID-19 committee also recommended that Alberta support a mandatory requirement that all healthcare professionals, personal care workers, residents and staff of long-term care facilities be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
AHS mandated vaccines for all employees and contracted healthcare providers – including physicians and other frontline healthcare workers – to be fully immunized for COVID-19 by October 31, 2021.
AHS said in an August 31 release that this necessary step is required to protect patients, vulnerable and immuno-compromised Albertans, and anyone who visits or works at any AHS site, including healthcare facilities.
"This is an extraordinary but necessary measure to help protect our vital frontline healthcare teams and help us maintain a safe environment for all patients and clients," said Dr. Verna Yiu, President and CEO of Alberta Health Services.
"Over the last year and a half, our teams have continued to provide incredible care to anyone who needs it, under extremely trying circumstances. We are grateful for their efforts and are committed to ensuring the safety of our facilities."
The release reads that evidence confirmed that being fully immunized mitigates potential harm to patients and healthcare workers. Healthcare workers have an ethical and professional responsibility to protect others, and AHS determined that vaccinations are a tool needed to meet this standard.
However, they said any AHS employee unable to be immunized due to a medical reason or another protected ground under the Alberta Human Rights Act would be reasonably accommodated.
The letter from June also said that a system is needed to allow provisions for those who cannot receive vaccination for health issues or who object to bona fide religious or conscientious grounds.
Province funds greater workforce capacity, access to surgeries
There are more than 132,000 Albertans who receive home care services annually and nearly 28,000 Albertans residing in continuing care facilities.
On Thursday, the province announced Up to $36 million in new funding to improve wages and create additional workforce capacity to allow more Albertans to receive care outside of hospitals and free up resources to treat COVID-19 patients during the fourth wave.
Improving home care and facility-based continuing care will mean more Albertans will get the care they need in their homes and communities, reads a government release. This will help reduce pressure on all parts of the healthcare system, namely acute care when hospitalizations are increasing due to COVID-19.
More than 400 Albertans are currently waiting in hospitals to move into continuing care facilities, with many more waiting to return to their homes outside of facility-based care with the support of home care services.
"We know that home care agencies are experiencing staffing challenges. Increasing the pool of available staff will mean we can move additional patients from hospitals to their homes when it is safe to do so," said Health Minister Tyler Shandro. "This is a benefit to patients who would rather get the care they need in the comfort of their own homes. It also benefits hospitals as they manage the increasing number of patients who need beds because of COVID-19 complications."
Yiu commented: "Supporting home care agencies recruit and retain staff will enable more patients to receive high-quality care in their homes, improving capacity in our hospitals and allowing more patients to stay close to their loved ones."
Contracted home care agencies will receive $22 million over two years in additional funding to provide wage increases to their certified healthcare aides, according to a government release. The additional funding will provide a pay increase of $2 an hour for the next 13 months for healthcare aides working in-home care agencies contracted with AHS.
The $22 million for the healthcare aide wage increase will be provided over two years; $12 million in 2021-22 and $10 million in 2022-23. The home care aide salary increase is for staff working in contracted home care agencies. This increase does not apply to Alberta Health Services or Covenant Health home care staff.
The purpose of providing this increase in funding rates is to help retain current and recruit additional staff, which will allow more Albertans to be cared for in their own homes. There are currently hundreds of vacant healthcare aide positions in the home care system.
An additional $14 million is also being provided to expand workforce capacity to support home care and continuing care facilities on a short-term basis until March 31, 2022.
The Alberta Continuing Care Association and Bayshore Home Care Solutions welcomed the additional funding to improve Alberta’s continuing care system and "go the extra mile to make our clients feel special, comfortable and safe."
Sylvie Beauchamp, vice-president of Alberta Home Health Services, thanked the Alberta government for keeping "our clients safe and well in their homes."
She adds: "This announcement is a positive step forward to developing a sustainable funding model to make home care a desirable career choice."
On Friday, the province announced an almost $10-million project to expand rural access to surgeries at the Rocky Mountain House Health Centre, providing better access to surgeries closer to home.
The project will build a new operating room to support the surgical program and upgrade the medical device reprocessing department, where reusable medical devices are cleaned and sterilized.
The single operating room at the Rocky Mountain House hospital handled about 150 procedures each month, including 60 general and gynecological surgeries, 90 endoscopies, hernia repairs, carpal tunnel repairs and other minor procedures.
According to a government release, the hospital’s new operating room will have the capacity to perform another 120 surgeries each month – or double the number now.
The existing operating room will become a procedure room and offer triple the number of endoscopies and minor procedures, or about 240 procedures each month. The project will also include additional recovery rooms and patient support areas.
“We at the Rocky Mountain House and Area Health Services Foundation are very excited about this announcement. Our foundation strives to support initiatives that enhance the care and procedures patients receive at the health centre," said its chair Phyllis Loewen.
"We have been blessed with the generosity of our community members over the years and look forward to engaging with them in this initiative to increase care close to home.”
The construction is part of the Alberta Surgical Initiative, which aims to provide surgeries to all patients within the wait times medical experts recommend. It will provide $120 million over three years to build or renovate hospital spaces.
“This funding will have a direct impact on our ability to enhance the surgical program in Rocky Mountain House and in central Alberta," said Yiu. "It is vital we keep our health-care infrastructure current and up to date, and projects like these help maintain our facilities and ensure our patients receive quality care in the best environments."
Enhancements to rural surgical programs in Alberta Health Services’ Central Zone are expected to reduce pressure on sites such as the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre and enable patients to be treated closer to home.