Posted on May 11, 2016

Health Services for Wildfire-affected Albertans 05-10-2016

Health Services for Wildfire-affected Albertans

Dr. Turner: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. While wildfires continue to rage across the north of this province, it’s certain that the condition of the people forced to flee their homes remains at the forefront of every Albertan’s mind. It is a remarkable achievement that almost 90,000 people have been relocated as well as they have been, but I understand that some evacuees in the reception centres are unwell. To the Associate Minister of Health: what is the source of this illness, and what’s being done to combat it?

The Speaker: The Associate Minister of Health.

Ms Payne: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We are very proud that, thanks to a well co-ordinated effort and co-operation from all evacuees, everyone has made it safely out of the danger zone. Now ongoing health and support is our major concern. According to recent numbers we’ve got about 105 cases of gastrointestinal illness at Edmonton Northlands and another six at Conklin Lodge. AHS infection prevention and control and environmental public health staff are on-site at Northlands managing the outbreak. Where necessary, patients have been transported to hospital while others are resting in isolation. Based on the advice of a CDC expert, AHS operations have been reorganized at Northlands to ensure best care.

The Speaker: First supplemental.

Dr. Turner: Thank you, Mr. Speaker and to the associate minister for the update. Given that the mental health of evacuees as well as others involved in responding to the crisis is a concern and one that will be felt for many weeks and months to come, to the same associate minister: what mental health supports are immediately available for the fire evacuees?

The Speaker: The Associate Minister of Health.

Ms Payne: Thank you, Mr. Speaker and to the member for the question. We recognize that supporting the mental health of evacuees and responders will be a fundamental part of the recovery process. Mental health workers are working in each of the reception centres, and anyone in Alberta can call the mental health support line at any time at 1.877.303.2642.

We’ve also added an addictions and mental health night shift at the Lac La Biche centre, and AHS mental health support will be located at each of the four debit card disbursement sites in Edmonton, Calgary, St. Paul, and Lac La Biche.

The Speaker: Second supplemental.

Dr. Turner: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Given that the safety and health of all those evacuated from the fire zone is largely secure and given that our minds must also turn to the first responders who are continuing to fight the blazes, to the same associate minister: how are the health needs of firefighters and other first responders being met?

The Speaker: The associate minister.

Ms Payne: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the recognition given to our first responders, who have been working around the clock without reservation. Several first responders have also reported GI illness, and they have been treated on the spot. A Fort McMurray field medical clinic has been established, and a team of four first responders will be flying to Fort McMurray tomorrow.

With respect to mental health, starting today there is a telehealth line dedicated to first responders, which is separate from the mental health line I mentioned earlier. There is also an AHS critical incident team offering support by phone 24 hours a day exclusively to first responders, and we will also be deploying on-site resources.

 

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