Stelmach defends health leadership amid revamp

 

New plans for flu shot clinics coming today

 
 
 
 
Premier Ed Stelmach expressed confidence in his health
minister and the province's top doctor Monday as political
opponents-- and many ordinary Albertans --continued to denounce the
Tory government's handling of the H1N1 pandemic.
 

Premier Ed Stelmach expressed confidence in his health minister and the province's top doctor Monday as political opponents-- and many ordinary Albertans --continued to denounce the Tory government's handling of the H1N1 pandemic.

Photograph by: Christina Ryan/Canwest News Service, Christina Ryan/Canwest News Service

EDMONTON - Premier Ed Stelmach expressed confidence in his health minister and the province's top doctor Monday as political opponents-- and many ordinary Albertans --continued to denounce the Tory government's handling of the H1N1 pandemic.

Under fire in the legislature, Stelmach rebuffed the Liberals' demand that he fire Health Minister Ron Liepert after immunization clinics were abruptly halted Saturday amid rising fears of a national vaccine shortage.

"I have every confidence in my minister. I also have confidence in our medical officer of health," the premier told the legislature after meeting with the pair and other government officials earlier Monday, before the issue sparked a rare emergency debate in the legislature.

Albertans will learn today when injections to protect against the new influenza strain will resume. Unlike the first week, in which anyone in the province was eligible to receive the vaccine, the provincial government and its medical board plans to switch tacks and strictly target people most vulnerable of becoming gravely ill, including pregnant women and children aged six months to five years.

Indeed, the province's own H1N1 pandemic plan recommends that people most at risk be immunized first.

Opposition parties say many Albertans susceptible to the H1N1 virus were shut out of the province's first week of immunization because massive, hours-long lineups at many clinics included people facing little danger of getting seriously ill.

"This government has created fear, confused people with contradictory messages, and did not ensure the high-risk populations were vaccinated first," NDP Leader Brian Mason charged.

In questioning why the province didn't follow its own H1N1 pandemic plan, Liberal Leader David Swann said political interference might be at play.

"You always address the high-risk people first and the essential services people. That's what keeps the system going," said Swann, a former medical officer of health in southern Alberta.

"I have to believe that there's some political interference in this. This is a huge departure from public health practice."

Liepert, however, said the government is heeding the advice of its medical experts.

"There's no mixed messages coming from us," he said, noting the province vaccinated about 400,000 people last week.

"That's over 10 per cent of Albertans and, no matter what anyone says, that's an amazing accomplishment."

Both Liepert and the province's top physician, Dr. Andre Corriveau, suggested the province's immunization plan was never designed to target the entire population off the bat.

"We never opened it up to everyone, but we had said right from the beginning, and I think all provinces were pretty much doing the same, is that we wouldn't turn people away," said Corriveau, who has been Alberta's chief medical officer of health since March.

Their message Monday contradicted statements made last week. The premier himself noted Thursday: "Overall people are pleased that we do have the vaccine and we're offering it to all Albertans."

Corriveau didn't know what percentage of high-risk people--which include pregnant women, children aged six months to five years, and people under 65 with chronic health conditions--have been vaccinated.

To help ease the strain on hospital emergency wards, the province has set up several H1N1 assessment clinics.

Calgarians waited between two and three hours Monday to get checked out at the city's lone site at the former children's hospital on Richmond Road S.W. Upon arrival, patients were given masks and hand sanitizer before being asked to wait to see a nurse or doctor.

Dr. Linda Slocombe, president of the Calgary and Area Physicians' Association, said a city of this size should have more centres than the five that were open last week. She added the province could also have made the vaccine available at doctors'offices and maternity clinics in an effort to target groups at high risk of developing serious disease.

"If you have a lot of high-risk people going to certain places, it would make sense to have the vaccine available at those places," Slocombe said.

But Alberta Health Services boss Stephen Duckett defended the rollout of the program during a speech in Calgary on Monday. He said the medical board acted quickly and responsibly based on the best information available.

He noted federal officials told Alberta it would have 220,000 vaccine doses a week, ramping up to 300,000 doses a week by the end of the month. This week, however, Alberta is only expected to receive 81,000 doses, with no information on how much vaccine will be available next week.

"We encouraged the high-risk people (to come forward), but lots of other people turned up," said Duckett, chief executive of Alberta Health Services. "We had to weigh the issue of, do we turn people away or do we take all comers?"

eHerald.canwest.com

mlang@theherald.canwest.com

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Premier Ed Stelmach expressed confidence in his health
minister and the province's top doctor Monday as political
opponents-- and many ordinary Albertans --continued to denounce the
Tory government's handling of the H1N1 pandemic.
 

Premier Ed Stelmach expressed confidence in his health minister and the province's top doctor Monday as political opponents-- and many ordinary Albertans --continued to denounce the Tory government's handling of the H1N1 pandemic.

Photograph by: Christina Ryan/Canwest News Service, Christina Ryan/Canwest News Service

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Halloween Party

Gallery: Halloween Party

Don't you wish your fashion consultant had suggested...

 
H1N1 Lineups

Gallery: H1N1 Lineups

People spent the night to secure their spot in the...

 
http://a123.g.akamai.net/f/123/12465/1d/www.calgaryherald.com/travel/kangaroo+island+lives+name+more/2138974/carving-under-water.jpg

Gallery: Halloween

Halloween around the world.

 
 
 
 
Heart disease but no shot.
 
November 04, 2009 - 6:06 PM
 
 Stalmach is a total screw-up. Eddy's gotta go!
   
 
Ringo
 
November 04, 2009 - 5:33 PM
 
 Re: Albertan: "Ed Stelmach and Ron Liepert are in a class of their own" The word your looking for is "INCOMPETANT". P.S. Get ready for the new rollout of a provincial sales tax. They might as well throw that in now as well.
   
 
ANSWER TO M
 
November 03, 2009 - 8:32 PM
 
 M It was paul martin who started to destroy health care. He chopped 80% of funding to the provinces
   
 
Art
 
November 03, 2009 - 8:06 PM
 
 Heads must roll for this fiasco. ED, if you won't fire Liepert then it has to be YOU!
   
 
Get Ready for More!!
 
November 03, 2009 - 7:13 PM
 
 This is only a sample of what is yet to come with Health Care in Alberta. Get ready for more nightmares. Better get our Dr. to perscribe a sleeping pill for us because they have only started with the stupidity!!
   
 
PC Supporter
 
November 03, 2009 - 2:29 PM
 
 Fire Minister Liepert.
   
 
The TRUTH
 
November 03, 2009 - 1:32 PM
 
 There is no reason to get angry countrymen. These guys are here to make money for themselves and are doing a great job. They have the best qualification to be MP's and WE are the ones who elected them. So please control your anger till elections and show these guys where they belong. But Before the elections all I can say is - ED please go to hell with your political family. And if you have any shame left (Usually politicians don't) please conceive H1N1 and releive us albertans of your idiotic smile a little sooner.
   
 
M
 
November 03, 2009 - 1:32 PM
 
 I guess to be fair, it was the earlier leader Ralph who helped destroy health care in Alberta. And Dr's played along with him... For example 1970-80 - Gallbladders were removed when there was a problem. Maybe 1 trip to Dr, 1 trip to emergency, and 1 trip to surgeon. 1990-2009 - Lengthy waits for treatment mean multiple trips to Dr's for tests and multiple trips to emergency and Dr for pain medication. Seeing a surgeon takes months so Dr's get lots of visits for the same problem. Health ministers can't figure out why pouring money into the system isn't helping. Dr's profit by seeing the same patient over and over and as the population grows it only gets worse. Solution: clear the backlog and refuse to allow a new one to develop.
   
 
huh...
 
November 03, 2009 - 1:02 PM
 
 All MLA's recieved in house shots last week so do you think they really care? They consider themselves "high risk" and I agree. A high risk of screwing this province out of everything that has been acomplished prior to Ed showing up.
   
 
Cause Eddy said so???
 
November 03, 2009 - 10:40 AM
 
 Whew... I feel much better now that Stelmach is defending his health minister. Don't you? I thought for a minute there that we were being guided by a couple of incompetent morons.
   
 
Dunce hats for Ed and Ron
 
November 03, 2009 - 10:31 AM
 
 How many times have these morons re-wrote their own messages on this important issue? Sounds like the same jibberish and confusion that led to the Oil & Gas sectors moving out of this province. If you can't believe in your own elected politicians; and can't make heads or tails out of what they're up to next - then you do the sensible thing. You cut your losses and move out. Had enough yet folks?
   
 
Wolf Tossing
 
November 03, 2009 - 10:24 AM
 
 The old Klein trick of putting those in Cabinet that made Klein look good seems to have hit a glitch here. Great to have incompetents working under you when times are good, and the Premier just has to toss some cash, and he looks good, and saves loser minister, and buys loyalty is not working this time. Better to toss Liepert to the wolves is my advice, it will make Ed look strong, plus he has lots of MLA's left over for another meal.
   
 
Observer
 
November 03, 2009 - 10:16 AM
 
 Oh boy! what a fiasco. If this administration cannot get this exercise right then what else can we expect them to get right. They have clearly fail and need to make changes. Heads should roll and I mean NOW! I have No confidence in this lot anymore and will use my vote to show that comes the next election.
   
 
CA
 
November 03, 2009 - 10:01 AM
 
 

Not only should Liepert be fired, but also Duckett and Stelmach for the ENTIRE HEALTH FIASCO and we should take back our province before there is nothing left.

   
 
Fort Mac View
 
November 03, 2009 - 10:01 AM
 
 Well, at least, when Stelmach and his moronic cabinet are focused on the health mess they created, they aren't screwing up the economy anymore. November 7 is coming Tory Party. Keep these imbeciles around and you will be obliterated in the next election. Think you can turn around public opinion on Stelmach et al over the next couple of years. Think again. They will have screwed up dozens of more times by then. If you current MLA's want to keep your paychecks, better cross the aisle (if anyone over there will have you).
   
 
all»
 
 
Keep it clean, and stay on the subject or we might delete your comment. If you see inappropriate language, e-mail us. You must have a javascript enabled browser to submit a comment.
 
Your Name
 
Your Comment
 
 
 
 
 
 

Calgary Herald Headline News

 
Sign up to receive daily headline news from the Calgary Herald.