EDMONTON — Following yesterday’s leaked documents, Danielle Smith’s government followed through on announcing a massive restructuring of public health care in Alberta, as well as a new Alberta Health Services Board chaired by a former conservative cabinet minister, Lyle Oberg. None of this was part of the UCP’s platform in this year’s election.
After years of unprecedented pressures on our public health care system, health care workers and patients in this province are seeking certainty when it comes to something as important as our public health care system. They aren’t looking for changes of this scale being directed by politicians, rather than health care experts and community needs.
“Danielle Smith has repeatedly talked about more local control in health care as cover for her transformative changes to the system, but today’s announcement does nothing but tweak local advisory councils, it's not about local input into health care,” said Chris Gallaway, executive director of Friends of Medicare. “Instead what we are seeing is a destructive plan for restructuring and causing more chaos in our public health care system. Albertans should be very concerned about today’s announcement.”
This comes in spite of the government’s failed attempts at a major restructuring and subsequent privatization of large swaths of Alberta’s public medical laboratory system to for-profit operator Dynalife — a decision which ultimately failed so badly the government was forced to bring the labs back under the public system this summer.
“Blow it up and sell pieces off, that seems to be the strategy underway with this morning's announcement,” said Gallaway. “You think this government would have learned their lesson after their disastrous decision to split our lab system into two pieces and their subsequent failed privatization of the community labs to Dynalife, but here we go again.”
The government's plan fails to address the very real concerns about access, capacity and staffing being felt throughout our health care system. With so many health care workers openly contemplating leaving the system or the province, the government should be prioritizing a plan to retain those already working here and to recruit the workers we desperately need. Unfortunately, this government has repeatedly ignored the voices of health care workers and experts, refusing to deviate from their ideological push for privatization.
“We’ve seen nothing about getting the new hospitals for Red Deer or South Edmonton built, nothing to help retain the health care workers currently in the system, nothing about training or recruiting more doctors, nurses and other health care professionals into the system,” said Gallaway. “When asked about building needed hospitals and acute care beds, or fixing widespread short staffing, the Premier and Health Minister relied on buzzwords and vague promises of restructuring over the next year and a half. It’s clear they don’t understand the current crisis or the solutions we need.”
Today’s announcement also leaned heavily on touting the government’s failing so-called Recovery Orientated Approach to mental health and addictions. As Alberta continues to experience record deaths, Friends of Medicare continues to call on Albertans to support an evidenced-based approach to the ongoing toxic drug crisis.