Report: Doctors call on Edmonton Oilers to reconsider having fans in stands

Photo credit:Andy Devlin/NHLI via USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
1 year ago
Over a dozen infectious disease doctors have called on the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames to reconsider plans of having its stands at full capacity, TSN’s Rick Westhead reported Wednesday.
The call comes as Alberta faces an unprecedented health care crisis that has overwhelmed hospitals and intensive care units with COVID-19 cases.
“Things are so desperate,” Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious disease doctor in Edmonton, told TSN. “In all of Alberta we have 340 ICU beds. We are literally 10 patients away from having to start choosing who gets treatment and who does not.”
Another doctor, Dr. Noel Gibney, who has worked in critical care in Edmonton for four-plus decades, told TSN “this is about to be a nightmare like we’ve never seen before.”
“We are now begging other provinces to start taking our ICU patients and we are days away from having to decide which patients will be taken off ventilators and given palliative care, basically oxygen and morphine, to make way for patients that have a better chance to live,” Gibney continued. “It’s jarring that we are asking other provinces to take our patients and at the same time having full hockey arenas that will lead to further spread of COVID-19.”
The Edmonton OIlers have announced they would be mandating proof-of-vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to gain entry to Rogers Place, while the Flames are implementing the same policy.
Alberta Health Services told TSN they are comfortable with full occupancy at games given the need for vaccinations or negative COVID-19 tests.
With Alberta exploring options of sending ill patients to other provinces, Dr. Mike Silverman, an infectious disease specialist at Western University in London, Ont., said it’s left him questioning if fans should be able to attend games.
“They did it with no fans for a while and they can go back to it without too much trouble,” Dr. Silverman told TSN. “These are extreme times. In Alberta, they’re now talking about bringing in emergency protocols for resuscitation, meaning that if someone’s heart stops, a doctor may not resuscitate them because if they resuscitate them, they don’t have an ICU bed to put them in.
“[The Oilers and Flames] have to be good citizens. They’re supposed to be playing for the pride of the city, not helping the city go down the drain… The message the NHL is sending is, ‘It’s okay that you can’t get your cancer surgery, but it’s not okay if fans miss a game that they can watch at home on TV. That’s just too much to ask.'”
In a statement to TSN, the Oilers said they would “continue to monitor and evaluate our venue plans and the COVID situation in Alberta and will adjust as needed.”

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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