Alberta outlines $1.25B pandemic response funding, criticizes feds for vaccine supply shortages

CALGARY —
Premier Jason Kenney gathered with the provincial health and finance ministers at a Calgary grocery store Tuesday morning to bring attention to the province’s previously announced funding commitments to the pandemic response and health system, and place blame for current vaccine shortages.

The funding was originally announced as part of Budget 2021, which was unveiled last week.

The province has allocated $1.25 billion in one-time funding for the COVID-19 pandemic response and increased the total amount allocated for health to $23 billion, an increase of $900 million over the 2020 commitment.

“The historic investment in health care in Budget 2021 reflects the Alberta government’s top priority – protecting Albertans through the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kenney in a statement released during the announcement.

“As the pandemic continues, keeping Albertans healthy is key to driving our economic recovery. Increased investment in health care will ensure Alberta remains a leader in vaccine administration so we can see further reopening of our economy, our lives and our livelihoods.”

Dr. Verna Yiu, Alberta Health Services president and CEO, participated in the announcement alongside Kenney, Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Finance Minister Travis Toews.

Health Minister Shandro says the one-time funding for the pandemic response will be used for testing, contract tracing and ensuring health-care staff have access to personal protective equipment. He adds that the province is ready to increase its distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine and continue through the phased approach as soon as supply is available,

“We’re also putting plans in place to ramp up to match any potential increase in supply. We will be ready to deliver as many as 250,000 doses a week by the end of March. That’s a million doses a month. It’s a big number but remember we do roughly that many every year at the start of our flu campaign.”

Kenney pointed a finger squarely at the federal government for the current vaccine supply limitations.

“I want to remind people, the only thing standing up between us and that mass immunization and greater freedom and getting back to normal is the federal government getting us doses so that we can inoculate Albertans,” said Kenney. “That is the critical central issue right now and we’re not going to let them get away with a lack of accountability for Canada being the 44th in the world now on per capita inoculations.

“It’s not acceptable for a country of Canada stature and size and sophistication, but here we are.”

The provincial health spending includes:

  • $5.4 billion for physician compensation and development;
  • $3.5 billion for community care, continuing care and home care programs;
  • $1.9 billion for drugs and supplemental health benfit programs, and;
  • $140 million to increase access to mental health and addiction service over the next four years.

The highlighting of previously announced funding comes a day after Alberta entered the second step of its four-step framework for easing restrictions that were put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the province.