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'We're all begging': Doctors call on Alberta government for stronger COVID-19 health measures

A group of doctors says the Alberta government's approach to curbing the spread of COVID-19 is gross negligence that will lead to more deaths. 

'They took no responsibility for an overwhelmed system'

Cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Alberta. A group of doctors are calling on the government to introduce more health measures to curb the spread of the virus. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

A group of doctors says the Alberta government's approach to curbing the spread of COVID-19 is gross negligence that will lead to more deaths. 

Dr. Neeja Bakshi, doctor of internal medicine at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, spoke at a news conference Thursday as part of the Protect our Province Alberta advocacy group. 

"We saw complete abandonment of health and well-being for Albertans from the government," Bakshi said. "They took no responsibility for an overwhelmed system."

The doctors were responding to Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw's COVID-19 update Thursday afternoon. 

The government did not announce any new measures to restrict movement or gatherings, nor mandate proof of vaccine or vaccine passports.

"Because of these inactions, Albertans will die," Bakshi said. 

On Thursday, the province reported that nine more people died of COVID-19, following 18 reported deaths on Wednesday. 

In the past 24 hours, the province added 1,510 new cases and 679 people are in hospital with COVID-19, up from 647 the day before.

The main focus of the government's update was announcing millions of dollars for health-care aides and continuing care facilities to help free up hospital beds. 

Following the Protect our Province press conference, CBC News asked Shandro and Dr. Hinshaw's office what their response was to the doctors' pleas, but was told to refer back to the COVID-19 update earlier that day.  

Dr. Joe Vipond, an emergency room physician in Calgary, said the government's inaction is unprofessional.

"If I went into work and reoccurringly killed patients, there'd be consequences to that," he said.  

The doctors are calling on the province to require vaccine passports for people to access public places, do widespread rapid testing and restrict numbers of people allowed to gather. 

"I call on the government to do what's right, to do what's worked in previous waves in this province," Vipond said. "Please, please, we're totally begging you, don't let Albertans suffer because of your inaction." 

When asked by reporters, Shandro repeatedly said the province wouldn't mandate proof of vaccine, despite consistent calls from several sectors. 

The doctors also say schools and places of worship should have mandatory masking — currently both are listed as exemptions on the province's mask order. 

The doctors say the fourth wave was predictable and preventable. 

Dr. Paul Parks, who works in Medicine Hat, said Alberta needs targeted public health measures that will ease the pressure on the system. 

"We're all begging for our government to lead."

"I don't want them to wait until I or my colleagues are in a position where I have to make a choice, does the 35-year-old get the best ventilator or does the 55-year-old?"

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