Swann dismayed by Health Ministry response to Fentanyl Crisis

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann was dismayed by the Associate Minister of Health Brandy Payne’s response to his call for a Public Health Emergency over the growing number of opioid deaths.

“Instead of using evidence to show the government is doing all it can to prevent more deaths, the Associate Minister instead chose to raise the spectre of police knocking in doors and confiscating private property,” Swann said. “This is ludicrous, public relations spin at its lowest. Worse, it is disrespectful to the hundreds of families torn by the tragedy of this epidemic.”

In several interviews yesterday, Associate Minister Payne stated that her ministry sought legal advice and they determined a Public Health Emergency was inappropriate.

“Perhaps instead of consulting lawyers, the Minister should have consulted doctors and specialists,” Swann, himself a medical doctor, stated.

There have been multiple medical specialists nationwide that consider this crisis a Public Health Emergency. One of the most vocal, Dr. Hakique Virani, is an addictions specialist at the University of Alberta. 

“Dr. Virani has spent years calling on governments for action,” Swann said. “He’s one of the country’s top specialists and he’s right here in Alberta. Why is this not government listening?”

Minister Payne also told media that Naloxone kits had reduced deaths by several hundred. However, recent statistics show deaths from opioid overdose in the first six months of 2016 are greater than in the first six months of 2015.

“That 300 lives have been saved through Naloxone kits should not be taken as an indication our system is working,” Swann stated. “It’s an indication of how bad the problem is and an indictment of our current efforts to control it.”  

“The response of Alberta Health to my call for a Public Health Emergency is severely disappointing,” Swann said. “It is devoid of evidence and I expected far better from this government.”