Albertans, what will be our health-care legacy?

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Have you heard, “My child is sick again” or “I can’t seem to get rid of this cold” lately?

We are continually being informed about Alberta’s current health-care crisis and the premier’s dismantling of Alberta Health Services, yet Albertans seem unconcerned. Why? First, we aren’t grasping the severity of the issues. Second, the government is sweeping everything under the rug and proclaiming they have the answer to everything. They don’t.

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It is important to understand that we have been warned repeatedly about very sick children and long waits in children’s hospitals. This was predicted in 2021 when emergency doctors spoke out about the government abandoning testing and prevention measures in schools, leaving our children vulnerable to airborne-transmitted disease. We have been warned that treating children as vulnerable means we are setting them up for a lifetime of disability. Ask the parents of Long COVID kids, whose children have been ill for more than a year. This is not just a cold. That sniffle or cough could be the beginning of debilitating multisystem inflammatory and neuropsychiatric illnesses, with no treatment in sight.

The recent and alarming Statistics Canada report on the severity of Long COVID speaks to 3.5 million Canadians affected by very serious illness and long-term disability, along with the risk and reality of growing numbers. One in five people have had a COVID infection and one in nine have long-term symptoms. The risk of getting Long COVID increases with every infection and is disabling. What are the true numbers of illness and risk of disability for Albertans? We don’t know, because this government has chosen to stop testing and reporting results.  

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In regards to our public health-care system being strained to the max, the premier recently stated: “If all roads lead to an emergency room, which is the most expensive door, it’s no wonder the system’s overwhelmed.” This is not the only reason our system is collapsing. We are faced with severe health-care worker burnout, an onslaught of sick Albertans and a government collapsing the health-care system into independent silos with zero consideration of the critical factor most needed — prevention. 

If all roads lead to an emergency room, then all roads must begin with prevention. Our health-care professionals are begging us to prevent the impending collapse of our health-care system. Prevention will be far more cost-effective than treatment. However, to prioritize prevention, we need to focus on common sense and decency.

It’s common sense that Albertans require accurate and up-to-date health information. This is not coming from this government. Their failure to recognize and adequately respond to the scientific fact that COVID-19 is airborne is negligent and misleading. Further, the changes to Alberta’s Public Health Act allows politicians, not health-care professionals, to make the final decisions in public health emergencies. This will cause significant harm to all Albertans. This government’s purging of health-care experts and dismantling of Alberta Health during a crisis is setting us up for failure. It is clear that public health officials need to be independent from government interference.

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And it is common decency to give Albertans accurate information regarding the importance of scientifically proven and highly endorsed preventive precautions. The prevention methods are crystal clear: stay home when you are sick, clean the air and wear an N-95 mask. Two of these preventive measures are Occupational Health and Safety and employment standards that need to be updated in every workplace. The third is the simplicity of wearing a high-quality mask in community and high-risk settings.  

We are at the tipping point of a very serious health crisis that will cripple our health-care system, devastate health workers and render hundreds of thousands of Albertans of all ages very ill and disabled. Our health-care system is not set up for chronic illness, especially in children, and our economic system is not set up for long-term disability. 

Albertans, what will be our health-care legacy? What we do now as Albertans matters.

Dr. Angela Grace is a registered psychologist in Calgary.

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