Silas Silao photo
CALGARY – Alberta’s hospitals aren’t overcrowded, not in immediate danger of being overwhelmed, and haven’t been in serious danger of turning away patients for more than a year, according to a lawyer.
Lawyers at the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms released extensive government data showing that Alberta Government data contradicts the assertion of Premier Jason Kenney that further restrictions on Charter freedoms of association and peaceful assembly, and the shutdown of personal wellness, bars, restaurants and small businesses, are necessary to protect Alberta’s health-care system from being “overwhelmed.”
On May 4 Kenney announced a fourth wave of extreme lockdown measures including closing hair salons, tattoo shops, personal wellness services, schools, post-secondary institutions and outdoor patios, among other closures.
Evidence uncovered by the Justice Centre through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests reveal that regular hospital beds as well as Intensive Care Units were in significantly less demand and usage during 2020 and 2021 than in any year as far back as 2015.
In January 2021, bed utilization was 90.12 per cent, compared to 95.21 per cent bed utilization in January 2020. The same pattern is repeated for February 2021, when Alberta was eleven months into lockdown restrictions. View the dataset.
In March through May 2020, bed utilization plummeted, likely as a result of lockdown cancellations of more than 22,000 scheduled surgeries, which resulted in the death of Gerry Dunham in Medicine Hat. In early 2021, the 93 per cent utilization rate was below the 96 per cent level recorded in the years 2015 through 2019.
The government has not provided further ICU utilization numbers for 2021. However, during the last quarter of 2020, ICU utilization province-wide was comparable to, or less than, previous years. There was a slight rise in December 2020, but ICU spaces in Alberta were still well below full capacity.
On April 3, 2020, the Alberta government had 1,935 acute care beds available for COVID-19 patients. According to a modelling document the government posted on its website on April 8, 2020, AHS planned to expand the number of acute care beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients to 2,250 by the end of April 2020.
The same document also stated: “AHS plans to be able to increase ICU capacity by 1081 beds for COVID-19 patients by the end of April, if necessary.”
“Obviously the Alberta government has failed to follow through on these commitments made in April of 2020,” said lawyer and Justice Centre President John Carpay. “Creating necessary capacity to treat patients would have cost a lot less than the daily damage that lockdowns inflict on Alberta’s society and economy, and the physical, mental, emotional and financial well-being of Albertans.
“We are now in our fourteenth month of Charter violations and economic destruction,” added Carpay. “The government has had ample time to increase hospital and ICU capacity, but instead blames Albertans for trying to live their lives normally.”