Coronavirus: Food donations no longer accepted by Alberta health-care workers

Some Albertans have been showing their appreciation for health-care workers by dropping off donations of food. But those donations won’t be accepted anymore, Alberta Health Services said.

In a series of tweets Wednesday, AHS explained “the risk is just too great right now” and “no AHS staff member may accept or serve any external, non-AHS sourced food, to patients or staff.”

On Wednesday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the province’s total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 had increased by 61 compared to a day earlier, bringing the total to 419.

Of those, 33 are believed to be community transmissions.

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Alberta to provide update on COVID-19 response 1 day after public health emergency declared

Alberta’s chief medical officer of heath, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, is scheduled to hold a news conference at 4:30 p.m. MT in Edmonton on Wednesday to offer an update on the province’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The news conference comes the day after Premier Jason Kenney declared a public health emergency and announced new measures that impose far stricter rules around public gatherings and what businesses and services can continue operating in an attempt to quell the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Hinshaw has been addressing reporters daily and reiterating that public co-operation is key to slowing the spread of COVID-19.

She has been asking Albertans to wash their hands thoroughly and often, exercise social distancing, refrain from venturing out of the house unless absolutely necessary and to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. If symptoms are evident, Albertans are told not to go to hospitals or medical centres but rather to call Health Link and consult with a medical professional that way to determine if a COVID-19 test is required.

On Tuesday, Hinshaw announced she had tested negative for COVID-19. She had earlier experienced cold symptoms and was asked by senior provincial leaders to take the test so she would not have to self-isolate herself unnecessarily.

At a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, Hinshaw revealed Alberta now has 97 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with the majority of cases emerging in the Calgary zone. She said that of the 97 cases, five involve hospitalizations and two people are in intensive care. She said all other cases involve people self-isolating and where full recoveries are expected.

Watch below: Some Global News videos about Alberta’s response to COVID-19.

While early on in the crisis Hinshaw noted most of Alberta’s COVID-19 cases had been travel-related, she spoke Tuesday about the spectre of more community-acquired cases being confirmed in the province.

“One of the critical things — I’d talked before about some of the community-acquired cases we’d seen, and we have seen a few more cases that we’re still investigating but that are concerning,” she told reporters when asked why she recommended that the government declare a public health emergency on Tuesday. “I anticipate having more information tomorrow (Wednesday) to share about those.

“But it does seem to me that we are seeing a few more instances where community transmission is possible. In addition, we’re seeing examples such as the dental conference that I referenced before, and we now have six cases in Alberta alone from that one dental conference.

On Tuesday, Hinshaw emphasized that Albertans need to take the coronavirus seriously so that the province can do its best to do something that has come to be known as “flattening the curve.”

“The more we can slow the spread of the virus down, the less likely it is that there will be a surge of cases that overwhelm our health system’s capacity to care for those that need hospitalization or intensive care.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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Alberta cutting contract with radiologists, group representing doctors calls move ‘cruel and petty’

Alberta Health Services is terminating a contract that affects many radiologists at Calgary and Edmonton hospitals next year and the head of a group representing those who will be impacted says “the timing really couldn’t be worse.”

“This really couldn’t have been announced at a worse time and it just comes across as cruel and petty,” Dr. Robert Davies, president of the Alberta Society of Radiologists, told Global News on Monday night. “In the short-term, radiologists, like other physicians in the province, are focused on getting prepared for the COVID-19 epidemic.

“The timing of this announcement is as awful as it is unnecessary and I’m really worried about the impact on the morale and the mental health of front-line providers… it just comes across as cruel and petty.”

In an email sent earlier in the day, health ministry press secretary Steve Buick confirmed to Global News that the government has told the radiologists it will terminate the contract in a year and said the goal is to find cost savings and use those to reduce wait times for MRI and CT scans for Albertans.

“The minister (Tyler Shandro) has been closely following the growing issue of long waits for MRI and CT scans in recent months,” Buick’s email reads. “In February, when he heard reports that cancer diagnosis and care of some patients in Edmonton was being impacted, he ordered AHS to take urgent action.

“The minister followed up with a formal directive to AHS to reduce wait times for CT and MRI scans to clinically appropriate times. ”

Buick said AHS pays radiologists “far higher rates” than their counterparts receive in B.C. and Ontario.

Davies said he does not believe the fees agreed to in the contract, which he said was only signed off on in November, are the problem.

Watch below: (From Feb. 20, 2020) In this edition of Health Matters, Su-Ling Goh tells us about how Edmonton doctors are once again raising concerns about long wait times for MRIs and CT scans and also tells us about a made-in-Edmonton invention to treat heart attacks.

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Palliative care program for Calgary’s homeless at risk of shutting down

For nearly 20 years, Terry Millar was living on the streets. The 57-year-old Calgary man was sick but he didn’t know how bad.

He ignored a massive cancerous tumour in his neck for months. He didn’t ask for help because he didn’t know how and wasn’t sure anybody would assist.

“I just wanted it all to end. Just because of everything I’ve done for the last 20 years and the waste of life and losing my kids, I just didn’t care,” Millar said.

People with the CAMPP team, Calgary’s Allied Mobile Palliative Program, intervened and got him care.

He was given six months to live. He went through 10 rounds of radiation to treat the tumour.

The health professionals through CAMPP provide compassionate end-of-life care to the homeless and vulnerable. Troy Speechly is the program’s health navigator.

“We meet someone where they’re at — be it a street corner, in the woods living in a tent or vulnerably housed. Everyone deserves to be treated as a human being,” Speechly said.

CAMPP manages close to 30 clients a day, and is in desperate need of financial support. It needs $250,000 to continue to do its work. Funding will be running out in March. The program is relying on private donations, but the real hope is the provincial government steps in.

“Without funding, there’s a lot of people slipping through the cracks and their end of lives could be in back alleys, behind Safeway, behind apartment buildings, in a stairwell, without someone by their side,” Speechly said.

The team at CAMPP also helped Terry Millar reconnect with the children he’d lost contact with decades ago. The care has given him a reason to fight for his life.

“Just to know people care, people call you up to see how you’re doing, it just makes a difference,” Millar said.

“I don’t want to disappoint anybody and want to last as long as possible.”

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A simple factor in fending off the flu you may not think of

It’s something most of us can relate to — the struggle to get a good night’s sleep.

But sleep isn’t only key for feeling rested and rejuvenated the next day, it can also play a big factor in avoiding catching the flu according to Copeland Healthcare medical director Dr. Nathan Thakur.

So what happens if you don’t get enough sleep?

“You are going to run your body down more and you are far more likely to unfortunately get the flu or get another illness.”

There’s no surefire answer for how much sleep you should be getting every night. Every person is different.

According to Dr. Thakur eight hours for an adult is a pretty safe bet and a bit less, between six to seven hours, for people over 50. Kids and teens on the other hand need more.

The quality of sleep is also important.

Dr. Thakur recommends a cool, calm, dark room, with blackout blinds and also avoiding caffeine or sugary drinks anytime after 4 p.m.

Another big factor is your cell phone, tablet or laptop.

“The phones act as a stimulant. The light stimulates our eyes and stimulates our cognitive receptors,” Dr. Thakur said. “It’s engaging you. It’s perking you up. These are very unhealthy environments for sleep.”

While this year’s flu seas is almost over, the latest flu report from Alberta Health Services shows a 41 per cent increase in lab confirmed flu cases in Calgary.

“I think all that shows is that flu is really unpredictable,” Dr. Jia Hu, the medical officer of health for the Calgary zone said.

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