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Doctors’ concerns spike over cracking health system

Last Updated Sep 10, 2021 at 6:32 am MDT

CALGARY — The health care system is cracking.

Alberta doctors are warning the public their access to medical care may be blocked, or delayed, as more medical staff are pulled to ICU’s overwhelmed with COVID patients.

“The absolute worst-case scenario if we keep going on without a circuit breaker — you’re going to probably experience access block in some form,” said Dr. Paul Parks, an emergency room doctor and president of the Emergency Medicine Section at the Alberta Medical Association.

“It’s going to be harder to get in to see your family doctor, it’s going to be longer waits to get into your specialist, longer waits to get into the emergency.”

Alberta Health Services Calgary already announced Wednesday it was cancelling all elective surgeries and outpatient procedures for the rest of the week.

RELATED: AHS delays all scheduled elective surgeries, many outpatient procedures in the Calgary Zone

And those worst-case scenario triage policies, where doctors will have to choose which patients to care for, doctors say they’re already making those kinds of decisions.

“There already have been decisions about who gets the optiflow, which is a higher flow oxygen when a hospital only has a certain number of them,” said Parks. “Thankfully, we’ve been able to temporize and get people to other places before things get difficult, but those kinds of decisions are already facing us a little bit.”

As hospitals pull more staff to assist with COVID patients — what’s next for our healthcare system?

AHS confirmed they opened a field hospital at South Health Campus this week for non-covid outpatients.

“If we expand to that and run out of space there, I truly don’t actually know what the next step is,” said General Internist Dr. Neeja Bakshi.

Doctors say a full ICU would cause backups in other areas, including Emergency Medical Services.

“So then, when you call 9-1-1 because your little one has gotten hit by a car, god forbid, or you’re having chest pains or something like that, it’s going to take EMS a very long time to respond,” said Urgent Care Physician Dr. Raj Bhardwaj.


They warn it’s a problem that will continue to grow if the province doesn’t take action.

“The most likely scenario, unfortunately for our health care system, is that it’s heading toward being more overwhelmed than it already is because we know case numbers are going up, hospitalizations are going up and there’s nothing that we’re doing that is significantly mitigating that,” said Bhardwaj.

The premier’s office did not respond to CityNews’ request for comment prior to this publication.