“So, no, I don’t apologize for the decision to relax public health restrictions in the summer.” – Jason Kenney
Let’s recap what’s happened since July 1 when Kenney waxed eloquent about a new day dawning and the future looking brighter because we’d “crushed” covid and were officially open for summer. On that day Alberta had 67 new cases and the 7-day average was 59.
Not bad, but by late July/early August Dr Hinshaw realized Alberta was in trouble. Our data did not track the UK data and the expected “decoupling” of covid cases from hospitalizations failed to materialize.
So what did Kenney do? He took a 2-week vacation. On Aug 9, the day he disappeared, new cases had risen to 244 and the 7-day average was 302.
Kenney returned on Sept 1 (his 2-week vacation morphed to 23 days). By then cases had spiked to 1315 and the 7-day average was 1082.
Kenney recognized the danger and acted decisively (sorry, that was sarcasm).
Kenney (reluctantly) reacts
On Sept 3 Kenney introduced the $100 gift card incentive to boost vax rates (it didn’t) and implemented mandatory masking for indoor public spaces and no booze after 10PM to reduce rising case numbers (they didn’t).
On Sept 9 Health Minister Shandro tried a different tack. He unveiled a policy to create more ICU beds by shuffling up to 400 long term care patients to God knows where. Apparently, the thinking was if you can’t increase the vaccination rate, put more people into ICU.
Then finally on Sept 15 Kenney got serious. He announced more restrictions and his own version of a vaccine passport. Vaccine bookings tripled the very next day. Surprise!
But on that day we also learned all non-urgent surgeries would be cancelled to increase ICU capacity, the healthcare system was in danger of collapse and healthcare professionals were being trained to implement the Critical Care Triage Protocol.
So much for a new day dawning and the future looking bright.
Our new reality: critical care triage protocol
So here’s the thing about the triage protocol. According to Dr James Talbot, Alberta’s former chief medical officer of health, it’s not just another medical protocol, it’s a “signal you’re no longer in crisis, you’re in meltdown.”
What does meltdown look like?
The protocol applies province-wide to all critically ill adult and pediatric patients (no other Canadian jurisdiction has a protocol for kids, so this is a first for Alberta).
It allocates critical resources on the “capacity to benefit” principle (the likelihood of survival) in an effort to save the greatest number of lives possible.
It’s supplemented by the “formal equality” principle that “All individuals have equal moral worth.” This means if there’s no distinction between two patients’ capacity to benefit, they’ll be accepted into ICU on a first come, first served basis and if two patients arrive at the same time one will be randomly selected over the other.
Once in ICU, patients are reassessed daily and those who fail to remain eligible for critical care are transitioned out of ICU. Patients and/or their families do not have a choice or the right to consent to such a decision.
There’s a certain irony here. Those that argue vaccines and vaccine passports violate their individual rights and freedoms will, if they end up in ICU, have no say in whether they live or die; the protocol makes that decision. It seeks an outcome that provides the greatest good for the greatest number, individual rights and freedoms be damned.
Going into the fall
Kenney’s plan to push the healthcare system to its very limits failed when he overshot the mark. With the triage protocol looming on the horizon, he was forced to reverse his opposition to a vaccine passport system.
He said he had no choice. “The government’s first obligation must be to avoid large numbers of preventable deaths…Morally, ethically and legally, the protection of life must be our paramount concern.”
It’s strange that these moral, ethical and legal considerations were not of paramount concern on July 1, Aug 9, Sept 1, Sept 3, and Sept 9. Morality, ethics and law are not mutable, are they?
The bigger question is what can we expect from Kenney going into the fall?
Kenney is under tremendous pressure to appease his base. His caucus is divided. At least one UCP constituency association has formally demanded an early leadership review. Will he lift the restrictions prematurely to prevent a caucus revolt and cause yet another spike in cases and deaths when the covid virus refuses to play politics?
If Kenney can avoid a caucus revolt, will he be able to focus on the business of governing knowing the sharks are circling?
Alberta is in crisis, it cries out for calm steady leadership, instead we’re being whipsawed by an incompetent premier and his power-hungry party.
No one knows how this will play out, but one thing is certain, Jason Kenney’s fall (in every sense of the word) is going to be brutal.