On the first anniversary of Alberta identifying its first presumptive case of COVID-19, the official Opposition reiterated a plea for the provincial government to release the results of a third-party review aimed at assessing how it responded to the pandemic.
While an exact timeline for its release was never announced, the UCP government had previously said it hoped the report would be completed in late 2020. Late last year, the government said it hoped the report would be completed sometime in early 2021, at which time it could disclose the findings of the $475,000 KPMG review to Albertans.
“We are now three months into the second wave of the pandemic in our province and there is still no sign of a report designed to help the government learn from their first-wave mistakes,” NDP health critic David Shepherd said in a news release issued Friday.
When asked at a news conference whether a firm deadline was in place for the report to be completed, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said it’s his understanding that the authors of the report have completed a first draft.
“I think they will be making the final submission fairly soon and then after reviewing it, we’ll be making that public,” he said Friday, adding that the completion of the report had actually been delayed because of issues presented by the COVID-19 pandemic itself. “There’s much to be learned as well in 2020. I assume one of the recommendations will be that we continue to learn from COVID(-19) and our response to the pandemic.
“This is a new situation that every country, every jurisdiction is going through and will continue to learn and having to react quickly to this pandemic and future ones as well.”
Shandro said he believes the parameters of the KPMG report have not changed.
The contract to complete the report was awarded in August. The NDP said the fact that Alberta is seeing some of the same scenarios play out in the pandemic’s second wave as in the first wave should underscore the urgent need for the report to be released.
The Opposition cited an ongoing outbreak at Churchill Manor, a retirement home in Edmonton, as well as the recent reopening of the Olymel meat plant in Red Deer, a move some workers and the union that represents them deemed premature in the wake of a deadly coronavirus outbreak at the facility. The NDP questioned whether the province has learned lessons from deadly outbreaks at meat-packing plants in the pandemic’s first wave.
“Workers are scared to go back to work at Olymel,” labour critic Christina Gray said. “Alberta was the site of one of the worst outbreaks at a meat-packing plant at Cargill early last year, and one year into this pandemic, the UCP have not learned from their mistakes.”
When asked if there’s anything he would have done differently in his response to the pandemic over the past year, Shandro said “probably every government is asking that.”
“It was part of the reason why we did the review of the response to the pandemic,” he said, noting he believes his government took appropriate steps early on in the pandemic by prioritizing the expansion of the province’s testing capacity and ability to provide front-line workers and citizens with the personal protective equipment they needed.
Shandro added that his government worked to ensure Alberta was able to expand its health-care system’s capacity throughout the pandemic as well, all while employing an evidence-based approach to public health measures that “balance lives and livelihoods (and) balance the social and economic consequences of them.”
“We’ve continued to refine our response to the pandemic as we learn… every day,” Shandro said. “We’ll continue to do that.”
Watch below: (From July 2020) The Alberta government is looking to hire a third-party consultant to review how the province has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. Michael King reports.
Alberta government looks to review its COVID-19 reponse
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