Nurses demand mask mandate to relieve pressure on Alberta's overwhelmed pediatric hospitals
UNA also wants the new chief medical officer of health to make public appearance
The union representing Alberta's registered nurses is lending its voice to calls for the province to bring in an indoor mask mandate as pediatric hospitals continue to battle an unprecedented wave of viral illnesses.
Heather Smith, president of the United Nurses of Alberta, penned a letter to the premier, the health minister and the chief medical officer of health on Tuesday. It calls for action to address the crisis in Alberta's health-care system, in particular pediatric hospitals.
"For the sake of Alberta's children, and all Albertans, it is imperative that our government cease treating this situation as if it were a political inconvenience and address it immediately as the public health crisis that it is," Smith said in the letter.
The UNA is calling for an indoor mask mandate, or, at the very least a strong statement encouraging Albertans to wear masks indoors and limit the size and number of gatherings this holiday season.
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"It's a matter of compliance. And if, quite honestly, if people aren't willing to put … the well-being of children above some inconvenience to wearing a mask, then there may not be an option but to mandate a protection," Smith said in an interview.
"The message should be getting out there that we have very serious illnesses, causing very high levels of hospitalization, at a time we just do not have staffing resources to expand capacity."
UNA President Heather Smith is urging <a href="https://twitter.com/ABDanielleSmith?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ABDanielleSmith</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/JasonCoppingAB?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JasonCoppingAB</a> and CMOH Dr. Mark Joffe to immediately address the respiratory infection crisis in Alberta’s hospitals, especially children's hospitals.<br><br>Read more: <a href="https://t.co/5lDki0SpBg">https://t.co/5lDki0SpBg</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/abhealth?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#abhealth</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ableg?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ableg</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/yeg?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#yeg</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/yyc?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#yyc</a> <a href="https://t.co/lRZd1soTm6">pic.twitter.com/lRZd1soTm6</a>—@UnitedNurses
The union also said now is the time for Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Mark Joffe, to appear publicly and comment on "the gravity of the situation."
"If we don't address it, the outcomes will be, like with COVID, death and unnecessary suffering by children and others because we have chosen as a province not to take steps," Smith said.
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Premier Danielle Smith, though, is not wavering from her opposition to mask mandates.
"We've been very clear, anyone who feels comfortable wearing a mask should feel free to do so. The advice from our chief medical officer of health has gone out through various means — directly to parents, online, through Twitter — to stay home when you're sick and to make sure you're washing your hands, and if you want to make the choice of a mask and the choice of vaccination, you should do that," she said during a Calgary news conference on Wednesday.
"I always appreciate the input from our front-line workers, but we do support choice."
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