On April 6, Premier Jason Kenney announced that Alberta was returning to Step 1 of the province’s relaunch plan and implementing stricter public health measures. That decision was intended to help slow the surge of the highly contagious variants of concern, which have now become the dominant strain in our province. The return to Step 1 was an announcement that family physicians across the province, including those here in Airdrie, welcomed.
We are now firmly in the third wave of the pandemic – a wave that threatens to see infections increase exponentially, overwhelm our hospitals and potentially claim the lives of more Albertans. Although our province is ramping up its vaccination rollout, public health measures remain a crucially important tool in protecting Albertans from COVID-19. We are immensely grateful to the Province for taking this difficult but necessary step to protect our patients and our community.
We found the decision by several United Conservative Party MLAs to write a public letter opposing the stricter health measures both puzzling and distressing. The letter, which was shared and signed by 16 MLAs, addressed their concerns of the impact lockdowns were having on their constituents who have asked them to “defend their livelihoods and freedoms.” It also noted that they wanted a path forward that “provides certainty to Alberta families, communities, and businesses.”
We were particularly disappointed to see that MLAs Angela Pitt and Nathan Cooper, who represent Airdrie and surrounding areas, signed the letter. Although Airdrie has not seen the same spike in cases as Calgary, Red Deer or Edmonton, hospital resources for COVID are concentrated in those major centres. Our MLAs should know how reliant we are on Calgary and that if Calgary’s hospitals are strained, surrounding communities like ours are in trouble, too.
As family physicians, we understand the economic pressures that Albertans are facing. We see this every day in our practice and with our patients. Physicians are small business owners too, and we have experienced our own financial losses resulting from the pandemic. Many of us have had to change our practices to stay in business and we know of colleagues who have had to lay off staff or even close their doors completely. We understand the weariness that comes with social isolation, the changes in routine and giving up so many of the things we once took for granted.
But economic impacts and COVID fatigue should not supersede the need for public health measures during a pandemic. These measures are not simply an inconvenience that can be ignored because people have become annoyed with them. They are literally saving lives.
MLAs are elected to represent and protect the needs of all their constituents. Signing this letter implies that the concerns of people facing economic challenges are somehow more important than the need to protect the lives of every citizen. To suggest that public health measures do anything other than protect our community endangers the very people who elected them.
The Airdrie Community Physicians Association