Alberta will not be sending medical professionals to Ontario to help with its beleaguered health-care system, Premier Jason Kenney’s office said Friday.
A letter from Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government on Friday asked for help with health-care resources as that province grapples with a third wave of COVID-19, which has inundated intensive care units (ICUs) and is overwhelming doctors and nurses.
“Alberta has always been willing to help its fellow Canadians in confederation, especially in times of crisis,” read a statement from Kenney’s office.
“When the pandemic began, Alberta found itself in a surplus of PPE and shipped over 35 million units of gloves, masks, goggles, and ventilators to our friends in BC, Ontario, and Quebec.
“However, with COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on a sharp rise here in Alberta, we are simply not in a position to send our health-care workers outside the province at this time.
“Our priority must be and will be the health and safety of Albertans, and that means making sure our hospitals are adequately staffed to treat COVID-19 patients. Our hearts go out to the people of Ontario as they fight this third wave and we will continue to have discussions with the Ontario government on how Alberta might support them going forward.”
The Ontario letter says ICUs are becoming “increasingly strained” leading to an estimated gap in staffing of around 4,145 nurses over the next four months.
Ontario has been racing to create more ICU space after modelling projections from the University of Toronto forecast roughly 1,000 patients would require critical care by the end of April.
As of Thursday, there were 653 patients in critical care — including nine adult patients in paediatric ICUs, according to the Ontario Hospital Association.
The request for health-care workers includes:
500 Nurses (ICU/Critical Care/recovery room/general)
100 Respiratory Therapists
10 Anesthesia Assistants
Alberta is also in the midst of a third wave of COVID-19 with the number of cases rising sharply in recent days. On Thursday, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 1,646 new COVID-19 cases, the highest single-day count since mid-December. The province has 16,223 cases and 416 people with COVID-19 in hospital, including 86 in ICU.
As of the end of Tuesday, Alberta had administered more than one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines.