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Moving forward: From crisis to preparation

COVID-19, associated mental health, addiction issues will spur change, Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA predicts
MVT Nathan Cooper Olds council-4
Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper addressed Olds town council Feb. 14 on a variety of issues, including COVID-19 preparation as well as mental health and addiction issues that were accentuated as a result of the pandemic. Doug Collie/MVP Staff

OLDS — The provincial government will work to ensure the health-care system is better prepared for more outbreaks like the COVID-19 pandemic or other emergencies, Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper says. 

Cooper made that statement during an appearance before Olds town council on Feb. 14. 

Coun. Wanda Blatz said the pandemic, which hit the province in March 2020, has exposed a shortage of nurses, doctors and hospital beds.  

In light of that, she asked Cooper if the provincial government will take steps to alleviate those shortages. 

"I think we all understand that no one was prepared for this and no one had any way to determine how to handle it.  

“But I think that going forward, I’m hoping this government will be looking to the future and how we can be better prepared,” Blatz said. 

"Listen, you know, there’s that saying, ‘never let a good crisis go to waste,’” Cooper replied. 

“And I think as a result of the pandemic, there’s no (better) opportunity that we have faced together to make meaningful and significant change to our health-care system – for us to be better prepared for future significant health-care events. 

“And so I firmly believe that over the next 12 to 24 months, the government is going to take significant and intentional steps to identify gaps in the system, ways we can re-allocate resources to find ways that we can make meaningful reform – and, quite frankly, to maximize the use of assets that we already have inside the system. 

"There are lots of under-utilized assets that could have been better utilized if we were slightly more prepared. 

“And so I think it’s very important that as we move forward, much of the conversation around health care moves from crisis to preparation,” he added. 

Coun. Darren Wilson noted that, especially during the pandemic, concerns have been raised about mental health issues, domestic violence, and addiction. 

He asked Cooper for his thoughts about that. 

Cooper said the provincial government is well aware of those concerns and "in the middle of a crisis” has taken “a fairly aggressive approach to investing in mental health.” 

He noted that the provincial government announced plans to create thousands of recovery beds across the province to help deal with the opioid crisis. 

Cooper said that announcement has "largely” been “well received,” although he conceded that “there’s a wide variety of opinion on how best to deal with the opioid crisis.” 

Some people who work with drug addicts are upset with the government’s decision to shut down safe-user sites where addicts are given access to safer forms of certain drugs. 

“I hope that if the pandemic has revealed anything, it will also help reveal the devastation that the opioid crisis is having amongst Albertans,” Cooper said. 

“There are literally hundreds of Albertans dying every year, due to the opioid crisis and so the government needs to take lots of proactive steps on this file.” 

He said that’s why Mike Ellis was appointed associate minister of Mental Health and Addictions last summer. He praised Ellis for his efforts regarding those problems. 

“But there’s a lot of work to do. And there’s a lot of future work that needs to be done with respect to mental health in our youth populations and otherwise,” Cooper said. 

Cooper predicted the full effect that the pandemic and accompanying health restrictions have had on the population won't be known “for generations.” 

He added that as a father, that concerns him. 

“There’s going to be some kind of long-term impact; exactly how deep, severe and otherwise, time will largely tell and I think the recovery will also play a big factor into that,” Cooper said. 


Doug Collie

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