It’s a wonder Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s inbox didn’t spontaneously combust yesterday when the letter from the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association landed in it.
Signed by EZMSA president Erika MacIntyre, vice-president Cheryl Mack, and 10 other physicians, the letter was intended to take UCP MLA Shane Getson to task for a couple of Facebook posts that tried to suggest poor planning by Alberta Health Services was the cause of the crisis in the province’s intensive care units and that AHS CEO Verna Yiu is paid too much.
“It’s a good thing we have the public all up in arms fighting with each other over passports,” Getson sniffed in one of his bon mots Saturday, “otherwise they might be asking what the heck has our 20 plus billion dollar per year AHS group been doing for ICU capacity when the public that pays for the system may need it!”
Referencing a news story about Yiu’s $568,321 salary in another post, the MLA for Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland opined that “for this kind of money, and the amount we pour into the system, I think we need to be getting more bang for our buck when it comes to resource planning….”
These cheap shots — rather mild by Getson’s past standards for intemperate, incoherent, and insulting comments on social media — caused EZMSA to summon up the blood, as someone once said.
Indeed, the letter is as fine an example of righteous indignation as one has encountered for quite a spell in political discourse. Accordingly it was cc’d to Getson himself, who surely felt the burn, shameless though he may be, to Jason Copping, Premier Kenney’s just-appointed minister of health, and Yiu.
It was also shared on social media by numerous physicians, and retweeted by large numbers of Albertans.
Now, to succeed, righteous indignation must not be self-righteous, nor can it be so furious it strays over the line into apoplexy. So this is a fairly narrow road to travel, but I would say whoever penned the letter nailed it.
Getson — wilfully or otherwise — does not understand the health care system he is talking about, wrote the doctors, the woes of which in fact “can be laid at the feet of the Alberta government of which Getson is a part.”
Comparing Alberta’s fourth wave surge to the deadly early waves of COVID-19 in Italy and New York when little was known about the virus, the letter’s authors call Alberta’s situation “unforgivable.”
“Your decision, Premier, to irresponsibly abandon all precautions against the Delta variant in July — and the further decision to suppress the data in August showing that the fourth wave would be extremely serious — guaranteed that the number of cases would overwhelm the system,” they wrote.
“The complete failure to take effective public health and policy measures when the fourth wave was readily apparent has resulted in 15 Albertans dying every day. Our government continues to choose death over appropriate measures.” (Emphasis added.)
Well, I can’t quote the entire letter — I’ll leave it to readers to read it for themselves. But it is worth noting that it excoriates Getson for his “abysmal lack of understanding about our health system and public health,” “bullying and harassment” of health care workers, and his “attempted character assassination” and “egregious personal attack” on Yiu, which it characterizes as “loathsome and cowardly.”
“Every Albertan deserves an apology from MLA Getson and the party he represents, for his false and malicious attack on Dr. Yiu and attempted spread of misinformation. His resignation would be an appropriate way to show actual regret.”
Well, this is the UCP, so don’t expect that to happen.
Indeed, Getson has a bit of a history of this kind of thing.
Alert readers will recall how he shared anti-immigration Yellow Vest posts on Facebook, accused recipients of federal CERB payments of frittering the money away on drugs, cartoons and Cheezies, suggested Albertans who wear masks cause COVID outbreaks and incoherently attacked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as “that fancy sock-wearing, paper-straw sucking waterbucks kind of thingy sort of embezzling whatever blackface painting ethics infraction.”
Whatever. Many Albertans suspected Getson’s remarks may have crudely reflected a broader UCP strategy to blame AHS leaders for the current disaster in health care.
Meanwhile, Kenney and Copping continue to receive letters from physicians begging the government to act responsibly and impose a circuit-breaker lockdown to get the fourth wave under control.
That includes the letter mentioned yesterday in this space from former Alberta chief medical officer of health James Talbot and critical care physician Noel Gibney, who also signed the EZMSA letter, another from the Alberta Medical Association signed by 58 ICU docs, one from the Canadian Paediatric Society, and a news release from AMA President Paul Boucher.
So far, the UCP is still wearing earplugs.
David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald.
Image: Shane Getson/Facebook