An open letter on health care to Alberta''s incoming Premier Jim Prentice

Friends of Medicare congratulates Jim Prentice on winning the leadership of the Alberta PC Party and becoming the Premier-designate. The following open letter is to Mr. Prentice on the future of health care in Alberta:

Dear Mr. Prentice:

When the leadership campaign is over and you have time to reflect on the actual policy changes that you will be undertaking, Friends of Medicare wants to remind you that timely access to quality health care continues to be of the utmost importance to all Albertans.

For the past 43 years that your party has been in power, we have seen both successful and unsuccessful changes to the delivery, governance, and quality of our health care services.  Throughout all these changes, Albertans have been fortunate to have health care professionals and front-line workers who give of themselves every day to ensure that we, the people of this province, receive the best possible care.  The successes in our health care system come from them. They are the ones who keep this system going through cuts to budgets, staff, and resources and still manage to set performance records.

At this point in our political history, Albertans are looking for real public solutions to an essential public services.  We do not want any more rhetoric, empty promises, or political spin. We want to see some real action in the following areas:

 

AHS Governance

The single most important rationale for creating Alberta Health Services in 2008 was to get health spending "back under control." Yet this expensive experiment continues to cost taxpayers millions of dollars with no clear benefit.  Far from being under control, our health care system has been in constant upheaval with repeated reorganizations.

What we need is real local input into our health care, regardless of the administrative structure.  We need real public discussion and real disclosure of how our public health dollars are being spent. For Albertans, what matters is doing away with the culture of secrecy and corporatization in our health care system.  Talk to our public health physicians and front line workers, talk to patients and their families - they can tell you what you need to do to make sense of the mess that we currently face.

Simply put: Be transparent in the governance and policy direction of our public health care system.

 

Private Clinics

Private health care makes the public health care system harder to manage and poisons its ethics.  As per the latest Auditor General's report on private clinics, there is no clear benefit to private facilities providing publicly-funded services. It reduces transparency and is neither more effective nor more efficient than providing those services through the public system.  Our health care is not a commodity to be traded in the stock market - enough privatization! That includes your government's selling of the Edmonton area laboratory services to a private corporation. Our public health care system is the result of previous generations' painful experiences with lack of adequate health care and the tragedy of lack of service when they were unable to pay. The corporate sector's need to increase profits always negatively impacts patient needs and safety. Most importantly, your government has not been clear on what basis decisions about patient care will be made - the narrow interests of shareholders or the interests of patients and the public good.

Simply put:  Strengthen our public health care services instead of selling them to private corporations.

 

Elder Care

Your government's approach to elder care has created a system where choice and quality of care have been seriously compromised and will continue to be unless you make a real commitment to phasing out private, for-profit elder care. Our public health care system must be expanded to encompass elder care, including all residential and home-based forms of care. We taxpayers should not be subsidizing private corporations to run seniors' facilities. The evidence is clear that publicly-owned and operated facilities provide better care at an efficient cost.

Simply put: Invest in public elder care and stop funding for-profit care.

 

Home Care

Home care is an essential component of our health care system, not part of the hospitality industry. People able to remain in their homes must be provided with adequate home care.  The changes that were introduced last year with the consolidation of home care agencies resulted in workers being further underpaid and undervalued.  Home care recipients were left with less time for one-to-one care with private, for-profit companies gaining great control over the "market." Those contracts given out last year were awarded without any public procurement. Your government used millions of our public health dollars to conduct backroom deals with companies that do not have to provide the public with any measurable outcomes for the services they deliver. 

Simply put: Create a public home care system and end the contracts with private corporations.

 

Primary Care

All Albertans would love to have continuity of care and access to a family physician.  We should not have to sit in an ER room for hours to have access to a physician.  We deserve timely care from a physician who has time to learn about our health needs.  Your government needs to release a public evaluation of both the Family Care Clinic and the Primary Care Network programs. Talk of "results-based and outcome-based" policy rings hollow without showing how effective these programs have been. Albertans deserve to know the facts. We want to see an improvement in the access, timeliness, and quality of primary care, but we need to know if these programs are the best way to achieve those goals before we expand and fund them.

Simply put: Show us the evidence your primary care programs are effective before we go any further.

 

Albertans do not want private insurance companies standing between us and our access to health care. If you are serious about improving health care for Albertans then show us you will make public policy decisions that reflect our values that we should all have access to the best health care without regard for our ability to pay. 

 

Sincerely,

Friends of Medicare