Nero fiddled while Rome burned; Jason Kenney hid while Albertan’s lives and livelihoods went up in smoke.
Last Thursday Health minister Shandro and Drs Hinshaw and Yiu unveiled the government’s latest non-plan to get Alberta through the pandemic.
Alberta’s ICUs are at 130% capacity when surge capacity is excluded (87% capacity with the temporary beds are included).
So the government will spend $36 million (slightly more than the War Room’s annual budget) to boost wages and hire more continuing care staff so we can shuffle 400 people presently in hospital (because there’s no space in continuing care and they can’t go home) into continuing care or back home.
Move ‘em out
Shandro says his decision is guided by a report issued in May 2021. That report set out 42 recommendations to improve the quality of care for residents in continuing care, not one of them suggests using continuing care to offset a crisis in ICU.
Shandro says he could move 200 of the 400 out within a week or two.
Where’s he going to put them? The Report calls for an immediate halt to new admissions to rooms that already have two residents, and more stringent measures to prevent overcrowding so Shandro certainly can’t triple and quadruple bunk them.
Maybe he’s sending them home. Is two weeks enough time for AHS to hire and train enough aides to care for those who require continuous monitoring and assistance with medications, hygiene, meals, and laundry?
The only way pushing 400 people out of regular hospital beds will alleviate the pressure on ICUs is if those beds are converted to ICU beds. Which leads to the next question, does Shandro have the personnel and the resources to create 200 to 400 more ICU beds?
What’s the plan?
Kenney and Shandro say increasing the vaccination rate will decrease the number of people hospitalized and reduce pressure on our ICUs. However their plan to boost vaccination rates through lotteries, prizes and bribes failed.
Now AHS has to postpone or cancel scheduled elective surgeries, including some pediatric surgeries, cancer surgeries and transplant cases to relieve the pressure on ICUs.
How did it come to this?
Looking back, it’s apparent Kenney had a plan. It was revealed in dribs and drabs by his hapless caucus members.
In Nov 2020 UCP MLA Jason Luan said (then retracted) that the government intended to push hospitalizations and ICUs “to the limit” before it gradually introduced restrictions.
In July 2021 UCP MLA Nathan Neudorf said (then retracted) that the government expected a rapid rise followed by a rapid decline in case numbers as covid raced through the unvaccinated population, and this would allow the government to avoid further restrictions.
Then last Thursday Shandro said the government knew all along its Open for Summer plan and the removal of public health measures would cause cases to rise, but the government expected the rising case count to “decouple” from hospitalizations. In other words, a lot more people would get sick but fewer would be hospitalized, and we’d avoid further restrictions.
Like so many of Kenney’s bad bets, his plan blew up in his face.
Case counts are rising, but they haven’t “decoupled” from hospitalizations. Consequently our hospitals and ICUs are on the verge of collapse. Hence the need to push 400 people out of hospital to make way for the incoming.
There is another way
Shandro said his government was exploring “all options to ramp up capacity.” Instead of ramping up capacity his government should do more to ramp up the vaccination rate. It should introduce mandatory vaccine passports for non-essential services.
The reporters, bless their hearts, pushed Shandro on this question: Are mandatory vaccine passports on the table if things get worse?
Um, well, er, good question, Shandro said.
He lavished praise on the businesses and sports teams that showed “great leadership” by requiring vaccination passports. Then he blathered about the government working on a QR code or a “printable card” that could be proof of vaccination for anyone who chooses to present it to whomever chooses to require it.
Then he turned the question into a metaphysical exercise. “You’re asking how certain we can be about the future.” What?
It was like listening to a tarot card reader.
Never mind, we’ve got the picture. Based on what Shandro, Luan and Neudorf said it appears the plan was to push the healthcare system to the max before introducing restrictions (check) and lifting the restrictions as soon as possible (check) in anticipation of the vaccines wiping out covid (fail).
Reason for failure: Jason Kenney. He confused and alienated so many Albertans with all his talk about covid being a flu, only fatal if you’re old and sick, restrictions violating freedoms, and the pandemic being over on July 1 when he declared Alberta Open for Summer, that too many Albertans refuse to get vaccinated.
And here we are in the middle of a fourth wave.
Albertans are sick and dying. There’s no room for them in the ICU so others who need non-covid care are being pushed out. The majority of Albertans and the business community are begging for mandatory vaccine passports but his own party is fundraising against them. It’s a frigging mess.
Which brings us back to Nero.
The Great Fire that ravaged Rome destroyed 70% of the city and left half the population homeless. Nero was out of town at his villa. Rumour has it he didn’t fiddle but sang as he watched Rome burn. Many Romans believed he started the fire, this belief was reinforced when he built the Golden Place and pleasure gardens on the scorched land.
Nero was a cruel and ineffectual leader in a time of great crisis.
Need we say more.