Health-care professionals in Alberta are exhausted as the province heads further into a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hospitalizations are not yet at the peak of what was seen in the second and third waves but the numbers are climbing, and some tell Global News they are struggling to repeat the cycle yet again.
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“Morale has never been lower,” said Cameron Westhead, vice-president with the United Nurses of Alberta.
“Nurses are really struggling to do what is necessary. It’s really rough out there.”
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Staffing shortages have led to bed closures in hospitals across the province in recent weeks.
On Friday, Alberta Health Services invoked provisions to mandate overtime, redeploy staff and cancel vacations to deal with pressures in the health care system.
“People are burnt out. They are being called back from their much-needed vacations and it’s just not a good combination of factors that are happening right now,” Westhead said.
Dr. Joe Vipond, an emergency physician in Calgary and co-founder of Masks4Canada, has calculated that Alberta’s case numbers are doubling roughly every 11 days.
If that trend continues, he said, Alberta could see 1,200 new cases per day in early September, and 2,400 daily cases by the middle of the month.
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Dr. Peter Brindley, an intensive care doctor at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, said health-care professionals are taking it one day at a time.
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“We’re soldiering on. People are doing okay, but everybody is shattered,” he said.
“It’s more than just a physical exhaustion. It’s a mental exhaustion and a sense you’ve gone through this so many times.”
Brindley said this wave is different from previous ones because a vaccine is now readily available to anyone who wants one.
Approximately 68 per cent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated in Alberta — one of the lowest rates in the entire country.
“There is a way out of this. If people care about nurses, doctors, their neighbours, people with pre-existing conditions — basically every one of us knows one or two of these people — then just get the vaccine,” he said.
Brindley said there was a sense, in past waves, that health-care professionals only had a few more months to go and “this will all be over.”
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“But it isn’t going away and it’s not going away because people are not getting vaccinated in large enough numbers,” he said.
“We were ready for things to slow down a bit and they haven’t.”
In a statement to Global News, Alberta Health Services said the impact of COVID-19 on morale is “undeniable.”
“We acknowledge that many physicians and staff are understandably tired and anxious about increasing cases and hospitalizations, as well as staffing challenges. We are doing all we can to support them,” reads part of the statement.
AHS said workers can access resources such as its Employee and Family Assistance Program, health and wellness programs that touch on stress management and fatigue as well as e-learning seminars that include topics such as self-care strategies.
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— With files from Leslie Young, Global News
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