Alberta doctors published an open letter to citizens and the provincial political parties battling for their votes, underscoring the need for help in a system they say is overburdened.
The letter was made public on Wednesday, and is addressed to all Albertans as advanced voting is underway in the days leading up to the May 29 Alberta provincial general election.
“Our emergency departments are collapsing, and frontline healthcare workers have truly had enough,” wrote the 190 ER doctors via an open letter.
The open letter, signed by 190 doctors, outlined the dangerous and unsafe conditions present in emergency rooms province-wide.
“We cannot bear to watch our patients suffer any longer with no end in sight,” the letter reads.
The ER doctors outlined three critical areas of concern that they felt directly impacted patient care:
1. Lack of access to primary care
2. Lack of hospital beds
3. Critical healthcare labour shortages
“Signs of a capacity crisis are everywhere,” the doctors wrote. “The wait time in Calgary’s Emergency Departments has skyrocketed, with patients sometimes waiting up to 15 hours to be seen by a doctor.”
Many of the concerns from the Alberta ER doctors stem from a combination of the pandemic aftermath and unfortunate and untimely government policy, the letter read.
Healthcare, and specifically emergency care, has been a hot-button issue in Alberta for a while with tensions peaking in the ER during the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with frustrations about challenging working conditions.
NDP and UCP respond
The letter was addressed by both the NDP and UCP on May 24, as both parties have continued to claim that healthcare is a high priority should either party form government.
Alberta NDP Health Critic and candidate for Edmonton-City Centre, David Shepherd, said that the UCP has mismanaged the emergency care system and has not been forthcoming in acknowledging problems in emergency rooms province-wide.
“Doctors, nurses, paramedics, health care aides, and many other frontline professionals have been telling me the exact same thing,” Shepard said in a media statement.
“Danielle Smith and the UCP created a massive crisis in Alberta healthcare and then lied about fixing it; they simply cannot be trusted to repair it.”
UCP leader Danielle Smith answered questions about the doctors’ letter at a Wednesday press conference on legislation preventing future tax increases. When asked about the letter, Smith understood the frustration but said the healthcare system has improved under the UCP.
“We chose a new leader in our party in October, and one of the very first things that I did was to make health care reform our top priority,” Smith said.
“I had been hearing very many of the same concerns that the doctors raise, which is why we knew we had to deal with it. I put in an official administrator, and we got to work talking to nurses, doctors, paramedics, other health frontline health professionals, and we’re implementing their ideas and we’re already seeing results.”
Smith they’ve reduced the surgery backlog, they’ve made a $2 billion promise for primary care, and the increased number of recognized nurses.
“Help is on the way, we have a lot of progress that we made in six months, which is why we need four more years to continue on the great progress,” Smith said.