Group of doctors say UCP MLA showed 'abysmal lack of understanding' about public health system in comments on AHS

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A group of Edmonton doctors is calling for a UCP MLA to apologize and resign for his public criticisms of Alberta’s provincial health authority.

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On Saturday, UCP backbencher Shane Getson took to Facebook to claim Albertans should be “getting more bang for our buck” from the health-care system when dealing with the current wave of COVID-19.

The MLA for Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland took aim at the salaries of “those who run AHS,” suggesting in posts the province had the capacity to increase ICU beds by more than 1,000, a number referenced by Premier Jason Kenney early in the pandemic.

As COVID-19 continues to put major pressure on the province’s intensive care units, dozens of doctors from the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association signed a Monday open letter to Kenney calling for an apology and adding that Getson’s resignation would be “an appropriate way” for him to show regret.

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The physicians said Getson’s comments amounted to a “malicious” personal attack on AHS CEO and president Verna Yiu, showed “an abysmal lack of understanding about our health system and public health,” and spread harmful misinformation.

“MLA Getson stating 1,000 ICU beds is magical thinking. He does not understand that tripling the number of ICU beds to 1,000 ICU beds requires time, money, space, and an immediate tripling of experienced, well-trained personnel, which is wishful thinking,” the letter said, adding that Alberta Health did not direct AHS to get to 1,000 ICU beds prior to the fourth wave.

Defending the efforts of AHS, it also laid the blame for the surge in COVID-19 cases at the feet of the government, accusing Kenney of gambling the stability of the health system and people’s lives on the belief that its reopening plan would not lead to an increase in hospitalizations and ICU admissions.

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“Your gamble, premier, resulted in rising cases and hospitalizations. Deflecting to AHS leadership for not being prepared for a disaster you created and refused to plan for is ridiculous.”

Spokespeople for the UCP caucus and the premier’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

While the Alberta Medical Association and Canadian Paediatric Society joined a growing chorus of calls for a stronger set of public health measures, Kenney rejected the idea of imposing major lockdowns at this stage of the pandemic, saying on Sunday it made no sense for those who have been vaccinated.

“I know that it’s easy to sit on the sidelines and criticize governments across the world for their response, but we’re all trying to do our best,” he said on the Roy Green show.

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