The Alberta Medical Association says the province’s high COVID-19 numbers are behind a desperate shortage of specialized staff to care for critical care patients.
“The demand for (intensive care unit) nurses is currently so high that we need to increase the number of patients assigned to each nurse,” the medical association said in a public letter Monday.
“This reduction in staffing ratio is well below our normal standard of care. This will jeopardize the quality of ICU care that we are able to provide.”
The letter was signed by members of the group’s intensive care section.
Alberta’s hospitals and intensive care wards are overwhelmed by critical care patients, most of them stricken with COVID-19. The overwhelming majority are either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.
Alberta Health Services has been briefing doctors on criteria to use should the health system collapse and they have to make on-the-spot decisions on who gets life-saving care.
Last week, Dr. Paul Parks, the medical association’s head of emergency medicine, said the staffing shortage is affecting care in other ways. Parks said some critical care patients are not being put on available ventilators because there aren’t enough nurses to monitor them.
Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says while typical ICU care is one nurse per patient, an alternative model, known as a hub, is being used to adapt to the pandemic while ensuring care is delivered.
Each hub includes one or two trained intensive care nurses and two to four registered nurses.
“This model partners registered nurses from other areas with existing trained ICU (nurses) to expand the availability of the critical-care nursing skill set to more patients,” said Williamson in an email.
“ICU patients are never cared for by nurses alone. Whole teams work with nurses in ICU, including respiratory therapists and many others. “
In recent weeks, the province has scrambled to create more ad hoc intensive care beds, effectively more than doubling the normal total of 173 to accommodate 312 patients currently receiving critical care.
Staff have been reassigned, forcing mass cancellations of surgeries, including cancer procedures.
Alberta has asked the federal government for help, and the Canadian Armed Forces has said it will respond with eight more intensive care nurses and air transport to take critically ill patients to other provinces.
Almost two weeks ago, Alberta reintroduced gathering restrictions and brought in proof of vaccination requirements for entry to restaurants, bars, casinos, concerts and gyms to try to reduce spread of the virus.
Daily case counts remain well over one thousand and a growing number of doctors and infectious disease specialists are calling for a “firebreak” lockdown, which would include a shutdown of schools, businesses and other activities.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, in a weekend radio interview, rejected a lockdown. He said it would make “no sense for the 80 per cent of the population that is vaccinated” and who are much less likely to transmit the disease and be hospitalized.
Alberta has lagged behind other provinces in vaccination. Kenney and his United Conservative government have been trying to persuade more people to get their shots by offering $1-million prize draws, other gifts and, more recently, $100 debit cards.
About 73 per cent of eligible Albertans, those 12 and over, are fully vaccinated, while 82 per cent have had at least one shot.
Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said it’s time to partner with community groups and health-care professionals to go door to door and help those who are not vaccinated due to health or work concerns or a language barrier.
Those groups could be “having conversations and offering Alberta vaccines right there on people’s doorsteps,” Notley said in Calgary.
—Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
Facebook to pay up to $14.25 million to settle U.S. employment discrimination claims
Facebook Inc has agreed to pay up to $14.25 million to settle civil claims by the U.S. government that the social media company discriminated against American workers and violated federal recruitment rules, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.
The two related settlements were announced by the Justice Department and Labor Department and confirmed by Facebook. The Justice Department last December filed a lawsuit accusing Facebook of giving hiring preferences to temporary workers including those who hold H-1B visas that let companies temporarily employ foreign workers in certain specialty occupations. Such visas are widely used by tech companies.
Kristen Clarke, assistant U.S. attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, called the agreement with Facebook historic.
“It represents by far the largest civil penalty the Civil Rights Division has ever recovered in the 35-year history of the Immigration and Nationality Act’s anti-discrimination provision,” Clarke said in a call with reporters, referring to a key U.S. immigration law that bars discrimination against workers because of their citizenship or immigration status.
The case centered on Facebook’s use of the so-called permanent labor certification, called the PERM program.
The U.S. government said that Facebook refused to recruit or hire American workers for jobs that had been reserved for temporary visa holders under the PERM program. It also accused Facebook of “potential regulatory recruitment violations.”
Facebook will pay a civil penalty under the settlement of $4.75 million, plus up to $9.5 million to eligible victims of what the government called discriminatory hiring practices.
“While we strongly believe we met the federal government’s standards in our permanent labor certification (PERM) practices, we’ve reached agreements to end the ongoing litigation and move forward with our PERM program,” a Facebook spokesperson said, adding that the company intends to “continue our focus on hiring the best builders from both the U.S. and around the world.”
The settlements come at a time when Facebook is facing increasing U.S. government scrutiny over other business practices.
Facebook this month faced anger from U.S. lawmakers after former company employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen accused it of pushing for higher profits while being cavalier about user safety. Haugen has turned over thousands of documents to congressional investigators amid concerns that Facebook has harmed children’s mental health and has stoked societal divisions.
The company has denied any wrongdoing.
In Tuesday’s settlements, the Justice Department said that Facebook used recruitment practices designed to deter U.S. workers such as requiring applications to be submitted only by mail, refusing to consider American workers who applied for positions and hiring only temporary visa holders.
The Labor Department this year conducted audits of Facebook’s pending PERM applications and uncovered other concerns about the company’s recruitment efforts.
“ Facebook is not above the law,” U.S. Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda told reporters, adding that the Labor Department is “committed to ensuring that the PERM process is not misused by employers – regardless of their size and reach.”
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Will Dunham)
U.S. FCC commissioner wants new restrictions review for Chinese dronemaker DJI
A Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday said he wants the U.S. telecommunications regulator to begin the process of imposing new restrictions on Chinese drone maker SZ DJI Technology Co.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said the agency should takes steps toward adding DJI, the world’s largest dronemaker, to the so-called “Covered List” that would prohibit U.S. Universal Service Fund money from being used to purchase its equipment.
DJI, which accounts for more than 50% of U.S. drone sales, said its “drones are safe and secure for critical and sensitive operations… Our customers know that DJI drones remain the most capable and most affordable products for a wide variety of uses, including sensitive industrial and government work.”
In March, the FCC designated five Chinese companies as posing a threat to national security under a 2019 law aimed at protecting U.S. communications networks.
The FCC named Huawei Technologies Co, ZTE Corp, Hytera Communications Corp <002583.SZ), Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co and Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co.
Carr noted that the FCC has a separate ongoing effort to decide whether to continue approving equipment from entities on the Covered List for use in the United States.
“ DJI drones and the surveillance technology on board these systems are collecting vast amounts of sensitive data-everything from high-resolution images of critical infrastructure to facial recognition technology and remote sensors that can measure an individual’s body temperature and heart rate,” Carr said in a statement. “We do not need an airborne version of Huawei.”
He said the FCC in consultation with national security agencies “should also consider whether there are additional entities that warrant closer scrutiny.”
In December, DJI was added by the U.S. Commerce Department to the U.S. government’s economic blacklist.
In January 2020, the U.S. Interior Department said it was grounding its fleet of about 800 Chinese-made drones, and earlier halted additional Interior Department purchases of such drones.
In May 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned U.S. firms of the risks to company data from Chinese-made drones.
(Reporting by David ShepardsonEditing by Bill Berkrot, William Maclean)
Google announces Pixel 6 phone with new chip, subscription service
Alphabet Inc’s Google on Tuesday announced the newest iteration of its smartphone – Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro – which will be powered by the company’s first chip called Tensor.
The tech giant also launched Pixel Pass, a subscription service starting at $45 per month for U.S. customers that will include the Pixel 6 and access to the premium versions of YouTube and YouTube Music.
Pricing for the Pixel 6 will start at $599, while the Pixel 6 Pro, which includes a telephoto lens and upgraded front camera, starts at $899.
The phones will go on sale at U.S. wireless carriers on Oct. 28.
(Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas; Editing by Richard Chang)
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