Privatization Ideologues have been set on marketizing our health care system, and yesterday's announcement by the leader of the UCP, Jason Kenney, that he intends to privatize laboratory services in Alberta, is another reminder that this unbridled disdain for our public services is nothing more than a celebration of self-interest and the interests of those who seek to profit from the poor health of others.
"For years, successive PC governments systematically neglected our current public laboratory, leaving it without upgrades, understaffed, and under-resourced, to the point that privatization was presented as the only option," says Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. "The lab services that we had in place were no longer able to meet the growing demands of this province."
Kenney's announcement contained no arguments that would persuade Albertans that privatizing an integral part of our health care would benefit us or our families. He presented no plan other than to attack the work that health care professionals and experts have already done in this area to ensure that the policy driving this change is ultimately in the public interest. "He is asking Albertans to accept a major health change on faith, without any evidence as to how the private, for-profit sector would provide better quality service than the public sector," says Azocar. "In fact, what we have seen is that for-profit delivery has led to decreased transparency and accountability, as in the cases of home care and seniors' care."
Privatization of health care is not a solution to a public problem. The ethical implications of corporate involvement in our health care are of grave concern to Albertans because our current laws protect private corporations from the public disclosure of 'confidential business information'. Unlike public health providers, private contractors will not have to disclose how our public health dollars are being spent, allocated, or collected. "As we have seen time and again, the corporate sector's motive to increase profits always negatively impacts patient needs and safety," says Azocar.
Collectively, we have the responsibility to understand that election 2019 will be a referendum on who you can trust to care for your loved ones. It is no longer about "fear-mongering," as some like to claim, it's about sifting through the rhetoric to understand that privatization is being presented as the solution to public issues, despite all evidence against its efficacy. "Any time health care announcements are released by political parties, Albertans must ask themselves if what is being proposed reflects the values of public health care, embraces clear provincial standards to improve access to care, and establishes meaningful ways of assessing quality of care," continues Azocar. "Anything else is just talk and empty promises."