Ottawa promises to step up after Alberta asks for help with airlifting COVID-19 patients

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the federal government will pitch in after Alberta asked for help with airlifting COVID-19 patients, ICU-registered nurses and respiratory therapists.

Alberta’s Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver formally requested federal aid in a letter to Blair Tuesday.

Alberta’s hospitals are struggling to keep pace with a devastating fourth wave of the pandemic. The province recorded 20,304 active cases on Wednesday — more than twice as many as any other province or territory.

Blair tweeted today that the federal government will answer Alberta’s call for help.

Blair said federal assistance could come in the form of Canadian Armed Forces’ medical resources and aero-medical evacuation capability, Canadian Red Cross resources and other federal health resources.

“Our Liberal government will always be there to support Canadians in their time of need,” he tweeted.

Alberta’s ICU capacity is sitting at 87 per cent. Without the added surge beds — which health care workers have said are not adequately staffed — the province would be at 169 per cent of its baseline ICU capacity. 

There are now 302 patients in intensive care in Alberta. The vast majority of them are being treated for COVID-19 — the province’s highest number of ICU patients since the pandemic began.

Surgeries have been cancelled across the province to free up health care workers to deal with the crisis. 

Blair’s tweet does not say when the airlifts will begin. The minister said requests for assistance would be approved “expeditiously.”

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