Attention: Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health
Dear Dr. Hinshaw,
I am writing on behalf of the Skills Society Board of Directors. The Skills Society is an Edmonton-based not-for-profit under contract with the Government of Alberta to deliver life sustaining and enabling supports for adults with developmental disabilities, respite supports for parents of children with disabilities, and supports for adult Albertans who have sustained traumatic brain injuries.
We are aware of the Government’s announcement that Alberta will be in a position to implement a phased immunization program for COVID-19 as soon as vaccines become available. We understand that the rollout plan will begin with vaccinating the most vulnerable Albertans between January and March 2021.
The Albertans we support are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19. Using a variety of risk factors, Skills Society has assessed the number of people we support who are most at-risk of contracting the virus, experiencing severe outcomes if they do contract it, or both. Of the 303 individuals to whom Skills Society currently delivers support services:
- 145 individuals have one or more of the underlying health conditions listed as risk factors for COVID-19;
- 44 individuals are 65 years of age or older; and
- 34 individuals are both 65 years of age or older and have one or more of the medical conditions listed as risk factors for COVID-19.
We are writing to ensure that the individuals we support will be included in Phase 1 of the immunization program given their vulnerabilities to COVID-19. We appreciate the tireless work of your Office throughout the pandemic, and its commitment to protecting all Albertans, in particular the most vulnerable among us.
We also appreciate the Government’s recognition that disability service providers like Skills Society play an essential role in supporting people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. This essential work is only possible through the dedication of our frontline staff who ensure the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of the individuals we support on a daily basis. Given the nature of this work, our staff are among those most likely to transmit COVID-19 to those at greatest risk. For this reason, we are hopeful that frontline staff in the disability services sector will be included in Phase 1 as well.
We understand that Alberta Health Services is gathering information on congregate care settings to assist with immunization priority setting. We have prepared the information requested in connection with distribution to the individuals we support, but have been asked not to include support staff in those numbers. We would be pleased to provide such further information as may be needed to plan for the inclusion of the disability support services sector in Phase 1 of the immunization plan.
We thank you for your leadership as Alberta navigates this unprecedented and challenging time in our history.
Hart Chapelle, Board Chair Skills Society
c.c. The Honourable Rajan Sawhney
Minister Community and Social Services