Hinshaw says government knew since mid-August hospital demand would rise without provincial intervention

In a long address to her medical colleagues Monday night, Alberta's top doctor was candid in laying out what decision makers knew and when.

She said the lifting of virtually all public health restrictions on July 1 was based on a belief that while cases may rise, the severe outcomes would remain low.

"Within a couple of weeks [. . .] we weren't seeing the decoupling we expected,” said Dr. Hinshaw.

“I deeply regret how that has played out. I do continue to do my best every day to provide my advice to the proxy decision makers for my patients, who are the elected officials.”

But as the situation worsened, the government dug in, and stuck to their story that the pandemic was in the past.

As the COVID-19 count climbed in the weeks following Stampede, the story unraveled somewhat.

"By kind of mid-to-late August, we realized this is a significant problem," Hinshaw said. "We (know that we) need to pull back and we're still in that process (now).”

Since then, the province reintroduced a mask requirement for indoor spaces and has halted liquor sales after 10 p.m. with some exceptions.

Former Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. James Talbot said he wouldn't criticize Hinshaw's performance because he doesn't know what advice she's offered. He said the inaction by the province was especially frustrating as the health care system teeters between crisis and "melt down".

"We were requesting that the (hospitalization) modelling be released. The media was requesting it. There was excuse after excuse (from the province),"Talbot said. "Now we know that the reason they didn't release it was, they knew that it wouldn't be evidence for inaction being a good course."

"We squandered four weeks when we could have been doing something about it. That's the bottom line."

He said across Canada, there needs to be more independence and job security for the role of top doctor if the public is to have trust that their safety is being put first.

"The degree of independence and freedom from arbitrary dismissal that we would like to give them - just to have in the future - so that we don't end up with this confusion about doing what's right for the people versus what's right for government,” Talbot said.

"We've seen unfortunately, the government in power, paying attention to a small minded, vocal minority, to the extent that right now the 70 per cent of us who've had two doses of vaccine are really being held hostage by the 30 per cent, who haven't," said Talbot.

MRU political commentator Duane Bratt said for months any expert questioning the government's approach to the pandemic has been publicly attacked by the premier's staffers.

"(Premier Kenney's chief of issues management) Matt Wolf said "the pandemic is over: Deal with it.' Well, the pandemic is not over," said Bratt. "People are dying, more people are going to die.”

"It's the same mistake over and over again," he added, "with attacks on anybody who has questioned their judgment."

"That would be the question asked Shandro. Or Kenney. How many people have to die so that you can keep your party together?” asked Bratt.

Dr. Talbot said the coming weeks will extract a heavy price, particularly from unvaccinated adults, as hospital resources grow thinner by the day.

"COVID is at 1500 cases a day and rising, you can expect to get infected, maybe two weeks from now, maybe four weeks from now, when you get infected," Talbot said.

"If you have serious consequences, and if you need a hospital bed," he added, "you may not get a hospital bed."