Budget 2020 flatlines health care funding while cuts and privatization continue

Budget 2020 flatlines health care funding while cuts and privatization continue

Today's budget sees a flatlining of the health care budget for 2020, with a spending increase of a mere 0.3% over the next three fiscal years. A minimum of 2.9% additional funding is necessary to keep Alberta's health care spending in line with inflation and population growth each year – the spending freeze through 2023, as outlined in today's budget, will mean fewer public dollars spent in the health care system. In terms of the impact on Albertans, the spending freeze will amount to a 9% reduction in health care spending in the next three years.
 
"Regardless of the political spin, when a government is not able to provide health care to meet the needs of a growing population, it is a cut," says Sandra Azocar, executive director of Friends of Medicare. "As one goes down line by line through Budget 2020, what we're seeing is a decrease in most areas of the health care budget."
 
Our integral public services have long been at the mercy of the impacts of ill-prepared-for downturns in Alberta’s resource-reliant economy. “We have seen these kinds of cuts before, and we know the impact that they have on our jobs, our health, and our dignity,” says Azocar. “Albertans voted for this government, but they did not hand them a blank cheque to insidiously erode our public health care.”
 
As per this budget, Albertans can expect:
 
  • Fewer family physicians and reduced rural care
  • Fewer front-line workers to provide care services.
  • Privatization of surgeries and non-medical services like laundry, housekeeping, and food services.
  • The reintroduction of the Affordable Supported Living Initiative (ASLI), which will see Albertans subsidize private for-profit facilities in favor of public ones, and see the proliferation of the privatization of seniors’ care.
  • No mention of continued funding to life-saving, evidence-based supervised consumption services.
 
Ultimately, the government’s short-sighted goal of pursuing short-term savings through cuts and privatization will not only have major impacts on Albertans in the coming year, they will have extensive down-stream effects on our public health care system for years to come – costs that will no doubt be passed on to patients.
 
Already we have seen this government fall into a pattern in which they impose major health care changes without providing any figures or comparators to Albertans. The people of this province deserve to know how and where their public health care funding is being spent, and they deserve to hear why their government believes handing this money over to private, for-profit companies would serve them better than if it were invested into our public health care system.
 
“What we are seeing from this government is an austerity agenda, with an utter lack of compassion when it comes to our public health care and the Albertans who rely on it,” says Azocar. “The most vulnerable and least powerful will pay the greatest price. But in the end, we all pay the price of growing inequality and insecurity.”
 
More on this budget to come.
 
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