This Election . . .
The election has been called - Albertans are going to the polls Tuesday, April 16! In the coming weeks, we are looking forward to hearing all the parties' platforms on our crucial public services - especially health care.
As you get a chance to speak to your candidates leading up to election day, make sure you ask them about their views on some of the important issues impacting health care. Ask about the state of our seniors' care system, the ongoing threat of privatization, and provincial support of a national pharmacare program. Ask how their party plans on defending and strengthening our public health care for all Albertans.
Election 2019 will be a referendum on who we can trust to care for our loved ones. As Albertans, we have right to know exactly where political parties stand before we cast our ballots. Albertans want a principled approach to health care: one that is grounded in the deeply held values of equity and fairness that underlie our health system; that supports democratic governance and processes; that engages the existing resources in the physicians and surgeon, nurses, health professionals and support workers who are committed to providing care, and that builds upon and looks to improve the health care governance structures that already exist, while addressing the shortfalls in the system.
Learn more about the issues below:
Alberta’s continuing care system is a patchwork of public, not-for-profit and private delivery across all continuing care services and settings. The expanded privatization of care was sold to the public as a way of offering ‘choice’ to patients. However, the reality of extensive wait lists means that instead of choice, Albertans are assigned the first available bed.
Instead of building and upgrading publicly operated long-term care, the long-standing trend in Alberta has been to close publicly operated facilities. Moreover, private appetite to open long-term care is limited in favour of the more lucrative and underregulated Designated Supportive Living (DSL) facilities, where operators are not required to have registered nursing care available 24 hours a day, and resident fees are subject to more ‘market freedom’ for operators to charge patients whatever the market will bear.
These differences are not without consequences. The Parkland Institute paper, “From Bad to Worse” found that “for-profit elder care is inferior to care provided publicly or by a not-for-profit agency.”
Meanwhile, private continuing care operators are provided public dollars to fund their organizations with no transparency as to where the money is allocated. Alberta still does not have an independent seniors care ombudsman with powers to randomly investigate facilities and enforce care standards. We are also lacking sufficient staff-to-patient ratios to better ensure staff and patient safety and provide superior care.
Friends of Medicare support the expansion of publicly delivered long-term care services and the phasing out of private delivery.
We have a fragmented and increasingly privatized home care system that cannot meet the needs of patients in quantity or quality. Home care services that can allow patients to remain in their homes instead of in continuing care or acute care spaces are more affordable to our system. Since the 2013 re-organization of home care providers in Alberta, one contract in Edmonton has been given up by Revera, and the Victorian Order of Nurses have closed down operations in Alberta entirely.
Quality home care services are already provided directly by Alberta Health Services, and the expansion of in-house delivery will provide more stable staffing and opportunities to set province-wide standards that can be more easily enforced.
Friends of Medicare support the public delivery of home care services and the phase out of private care.
Canada is the only country in the world with universal health care that doesn’t include access to prescription medication. 1 in 10 Canadians are unable to afford their prescribed medications. Recent research has shown the implementation of a national pharmacare program could save Canadians as much as $11 billion a year.
Provinces and territories currently have a patchwork of drug plans and programs. Alberta alone has 23 drug and supplementary benefit plans. Your age, income, where you work, and whether you have a specific disease like cancer, require palliative care, or have a rare disease determines what and how much is covered. Currently drugs are the third highest cost driver in our health budget.
A national public drug plan is necessary for three reasons: to address the lack of access to prescription drugs, to control the high price of drugs, and to improve drug safety and proper prescribing practices.
Friends of Medicare support the expansion of medicare through the implementation of a national drug plan for all.
For the past two decades, Alberta has seen a proliferation of for-profit clinics which represent an increasing and serious threat to Albertans’ health and pocketbooks. Private clinics often blatantly advertise queue jumping for patients while charging membership fees of thousands of dollars.
Incremental privatization through policy/regulatory decisions by provincial governments are gutting the Canada Health Act a bit at a time: deeming diagnostic Imaging to be non-insured; deeming people non-insured in other provinces so they can pay cash for preferential access in private clinics; and allowing concierge clinics, private diagnostic imaging clinics and private surgical clinics to set up in the first place. Each step was a clear violation that was simply imposed.
As a result of this privatization by stealth, patients are now faced with an array of charges amounting to hundreds or even thousands of dollars when they go to private clinics for diagnosis or treatment. Moreover, private clinics have been shown to contribute to longer wait times by siphoning physicians and resources from the public system. Private clinics are threatening public medicare in Canada and the laws that protect patients are not being enforced.
Under Canada’s public medicare system, provinces are responsible for meeting the conditions and criteria of the Canada Health Act, including the act’s prohibitions on user fees and extra-billing of patients that protect equity in access to care. Provincial governments have a duty under Canadian law to ensure that residents are not faced with user charges when they visit a doctor, a hospital or a clinic.
The federal government has the power to investigate transgressions of these protections for patients, and should be penalizing provincial governments that fail to comply. Both levels of government also have an obligation to Canadians to engage in population health planning, to provide services to meet Canadians’ needs.
Friends of Medicare support the introduction of proven public solutions to ensure timely and quality care for everyone, not just those who can pay.
HEALTH CARE FUNDING AND PROVINCIAL REVENUES
There is considerable political pressure on the Alberta government to find ways to reduce costs in health care. At the same time, Alberta’s public sector spending relative to GDP in 2017-2018 was the lowest in the country. The calls to reduce or restrain spending on needed services are purely political and not economically justified.
As a percentage of GDP, Alberta’s health spending, and public spending in general, trends lower than most provinces in Canada. At the same time, our revenues are the lowest in the country. Alberta has room to raise billions of dollars in additional taxes and still lay claim to being the lowest taxed province in the country.
The original vision for medicare is not yet complete. We are still lacking in public delivery of services in continuing care and have yet to add pharmaceutical, dental, vision care, and other services to the medicare umbrella of universal coverage. In order to achieve that vision, our health care system requires more investment, not less.