Posted on Dec 16, 2020


EDMONTON - Today Dr. Deena Hinshaw said AHS and the Canadian Red Cross are setting up a field hospital in Edmonton, despite repeated claims from Premier Jason Kenney and his cabinet ministers that field hospitals were only a contingency plan for “a potential extreme scenario,” and media reports of them were “a kind of drive towards hysteria.”  

“AHS is also working with the Canadian Red Cross to set up an alternate care centre at the Butterdome on the University of Alberta’s campus,” Hinshaw said during her daily briefing.

“Once again, Jason Kenney has been caught withholding the truth from Albertans,” said David Shepherd, NDP Opposition Critic for Health. “Throughout the second wave of COVID-19, Jason Kenney has refused to release AHS modelling data, refused to release Dr. Hinshaw’s full set of recommendations, and failed to give Albertans a complete picture of the severe strain on our hospital system.

“This is another serious blow to Jason Kenney’s credibility in responding to COVID-19, which is already the worst in Canada,” Shepherd said.

Media reported that AHS officials scouted the Butterdome for a field hospital on November 24, the same day Kenney announced a grab-bag of half measures that failed to slow the spread of COVID-19, leading to lockdown measures two weeks later.

Kenney quickly denied that the province intended to actually deploy field hospitals.

“It’s normal contingency planning,” Kenney said during a Facebook Live event on December 3 when asked about the possibility of field hospitals. “Unfortunately I think some in the media may have tried to torque this and I do regret that in so much of the COVID coverage and debate there has been pretty consistently a kind of drive towards hysteria.” 

Over the past week, hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have increased by 64, reaching 749 people, while the number of people in ICU has increased by 18 to 139. The Edmonton Zone has the highest active case count in Alberta, with 9,715 infected with the virus. As of December 16, 2020, COVID-19 has killed more Albertans than the last 10 flu seasons combined.  

Numerous UCP cabinet ministers also downplayed the possibility of field hospitals ever being deployed in Alberta.

“These are contingency plans but not part of what’s currently planned, right now,” said Health Minister Tyler Shandro on December 3.

Four days later, Shandro said: “It’s like a contingency plan. It’s not included in the current forecast, but of course it’s prudent planning for AHS to be able to continue to do that to make sure that not only are they able to respond to what’s forecasted right now but anything additional to that in the future.”

“Having field hospitals is something that is a contingency plan, a contingency plan for a worst case scenario,” said Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer on December 7. Schweitzer also demanded a NDP MLA apologize for questioning him about field hospitals.

“First of all, we’re not bringing in field hospitals at the moment,” said Government House Leader Jason Nixon on December 8, two hours before Kenney announced lockdown measures.