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Union leaders representing thousands of medical workers in Alberta have asked Premier Jason Kenney to deploy the military and Red Cross to shore up a health-care system they say is "collapsing right in front of our eyes," due to rapidly rising COVID-19 cases.
"It's time to call in the military to help our overwhelmed hospitals,' says a letter issued Saturday and addressed to the premier, with a warning that hospitals have "run out of staff" to treat severe cases.
It was signed by the presidents of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, United Nurses of Alberta, the Health Sciences Association of Alberta and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, as well as the head of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
The letter notes that military units were deployed in April to support Ontario's long-term care facilities. Also in April, the Canadian Armed Forces sent dozens of service members to help out at COVID-19 testing centres in Nova Scotia.
Dr. James Talbot, a former chief medical health officer for Alberta and co-chair of Alberta's Strategic COVID-19 Pandemic Committee, issued his own dire warnings last week.
"We're in crisis, Surgeries are being cancelled … ICUs are more than 50 per cent above normal capacity," he said.
As of Thursday, there were 911 people in Alberta's hospitals with COVID-19, including 215 in intensive care beds.
Between 18 and 20 severely ill Albertans — most of them unvaccinated — are being admitted to ICU every day, said Alberta Health Services president and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu.
Alberta Health Services has commandeered beds in operating rooms, recovery wards and observation spaces to create more ICU capacity and is prepared to transfer Albertans to Ontario for care if needed.
What's happening across Canada
- COVID-19 cases rise to 10 at Sackville, N.B., nursing home.
- P.E.I. health officials announce 3 new COVID-19 cases Sunday.
- 3rd dose vaccinations begin in B.C. for immunocompromised people.
- Schools in Salmon Arm, B.C., locked and secured after anti-vaccine protesters enter on Friday.
- Alberta Children's Hospital stops 75% of surgeries after province's COVID-19 cases surge.
- Doctor grills Sask. chief medical health officer about his part in province's response to 4th wave.
- Treatment of colleagues during pandemic 'disrespectful,' retired Manitoba nurse says at rally.
- Younger, unvaccinated people plugging up Quebec's beleaguered hospitals amid 4th wave.
- Fines related to COVID-19 rules handed down after party-filled Friday night in Kingston, Ont.
What's happening around the world
As of Sunday, more than 228.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University's coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.6 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Premier Daniel Andrews unveiled a roadmap to easing restrictions in Australia's Victoria state on Sunday. He said the state's weeks-long lockdown will end once 70 per cent of those 16 and older are fully vaccinated, no matter if there are new cases.
Victoria is expected to meet that vaccination threshold on Oct. 26, Andrews said.
As of the weekend, just under 43 per cent of people in the state and just over 46 per cent of people nationwide had been fully vaccinated.
Australia reported 1,607 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, while Victoria state registered 507 new cases.
In Asia, tens of thousands of devotees packed the old palace courtyard in the heart of Nepal's capital on Sunday to celebrate the feast of Indra Jatra, marking the return of the festival season in the Himalayan nation after it was scaled down because of the pandemic.
The week-long Indra Jatra precedes months of other festivals in the predominantly Hindu nation.
Armed police guarded the alleys and roads leading to the main courtyard in the capital, Kathmandu,while volunteers sprayed sanitizers and distributed masks to the devotees.
Nepal has imposed several lockdowns and other restrictions since the pandemic hit. According to the country's Health Ministry, there have been 784,000 confirmed cases with more than 11,000 deaths. Only 19 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated.
In the Americas, the director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health says a government advisory panel's decision to limit Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots to Americans 65 and older, as well as those at high risk of severe disease, is a preliminary step, and he predicts broader approval for most Americans "in the next few weeks."
Dr. Francis Collins told that the panel's recommendation on Friday was correct based on a "snapshot" of available data on the effectiveness of Pfizer's two-shot regimen over time. But he said real-time data from the U.S. and Israel continues to come in showing waning efficacy among broader groups of people that will need to be addressed soon.
In Europe, Pope Francis on Sunday expressed his closeness to the victims of a flood in Mexico, which led to the deaths of at least 17 people, most of whom had COVID-19, at a hospital in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo. The pontiff was speaking to faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square in Vatican City for his weekly Angelus prayer.
Torrential rains caused Mexico's River Tula to burst its banks on Sept. 7, and more than 40 other patients in the public hospital in the town of Tula were transported away by emergency service workers. An initial assessment showed about 2,000 houses had flood damage, the Mexican government said in a statement.
Hidalgo Gov. Omar Fayad told local media that 15 or 16 out of the 17 fatalities were COVID-19 patients. The media said the deaths occurred when flooding caused by days of rain knocked out electricity at the hospital.
With files from The Associated Press and Reuters
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