An update from FOM's new ED!

An Update from Friends of Medicare's Executive Director, Chris Gallaway


This is my first update as your new Executive Director at Friends of Medicare. What an honour! 

A little about myself: I have been a long-time member and supporter of FOM, supporting events and campaigns over the years, participating in the Alberta Pharmacare Working Group, and so on. I am an experienced community organizer and advocate for public health care. Born and raised on a family farm in rural Saskatchewan, I’ve since spent most of my adult life living on Treaty 6 territory, first in Saskatoon, and for the last decade living here in Edmonton. Some past experiences include working for the Alberta Federation of Labour, in three provincial legislative assemblies, and for a variety of non-profit and community organizations. Outside of work I am an active volunteer and community member engaged in social justice and the arts.
As we start 2022, the Omicron wave of COVID-19 continues to spread at an alarming rate. Our hospitals are filling up, our vaccination rates for children remain the lowest in the country, thousands of surgeries are again being cancelled, and many more lives are being lost. The pandemic will continue to impact our health care system for the foreseeable future, and so our work at Friends of Medicare has become all the more crucial.
Many have stated that health care will be our biggest issue in 2022That this will be the year we have to stand up and save Medicare from those who seek to use the pandemic as an excuse to chip away and privatize it. In what now appears to be a coordinated attack, reactionary governments, newspapers and think tanks have all decided now is the time to target Canada’s public health care system.
So, it’s up to us to protect and strengthen Medicare! I am excited to get to work, but with so much to fight for, and with so much at stake, we can’t do it without you! Consider renewing your membership for 2022, or making a donation today to help support the important work that lies ahead.
Here are some of the highlights of what we’ve started working on in 2022:

Privatization – Emergency Medical Services (EMS)
First they break it, then they privatize it. It’s an age-old strategy to undermine our public services. Last Monday, it was Emergency Medical Services in Alberta under attack by our provincial government. EMS services have been in crisis for months. Yet while health care workers, unions, community groups and Albertans have all been raising the alarm bells, the government has let the crisis continue to grow without a plan. Now Alberta’s EMS services have reached a breaking point. On Monday the UCP government announced a new plan and panel to look at our EMS services. We cannot allow them to use this current crisis as an excuse to justify their agenda of privatized health care services.

Privatization - Community Labs 
By the end of last week, Albertans learned that our public community medical laboratory services have been sold off to DynaLIFE Medical Labs, a private, for-profit company. Years of health care cuts and refusal to make much-needed infrastructure and equipment upgrades have left Alberta with a crumbling lab system, and now they’re offering privatization as the only solution. We are encouraging Albertans to stand up against the privatization of our vital public health care service by signing the petition to say no to the privatization of Alberta's medical labs.

Seniors' Care
Shocking outbreak numbers have highlighted the government’s failure to protect seniors during Omicron wave. Seniors care in Alberta has long been at the mercy of privatization and perpetual cost-cutting, wherein private, for-profit continuing care operators prioritize a return on investment for their shareholders over ensuring quality care for the residents who depend on them. Decades of aggressive privatization has resulted in a system that is chronically understaffed and under-resourced, and which was woefully unprepared to contend with the added pressures of COVID-19. 
We’re long overdue for a major change in how we do things in Alberta by moving to a public continuing care model that finally prioritizes seniors over private profits

Drug Poisoning Crisis
The number of people in Edmonton who have been lost to drug poisoning is growing exponentially. 2021 was our deadliest year yet for fatal drug poisonings—an epidemic within a pandemic. What we are seeing is a policy failure and a failure of public health. We need a new approach to curbing this drug poisoning epidemic—one based in fact, not fear and rhetoric.
We have joined local groups such as the Alberta Medical Association, Moms Stop The Harm, and many others who have been calling for a new approach. Edmonton’s City Council could take the first steps to decriminalizing personal drug possession, but we need your help to ensure they act

Following the newly re-elected Liberal government’s Speech from the Throne, Friends of Medicare were disappointed to see an utter lack of movement towards the long-awaited expansion and much-needed improvement of our health care system. We are glad to see Pharmacare was mentioned in the subsequent mandate letter to the Minister of Health. 
The Alberta Pharmacare Working Group will be meeting soon to regroup and reignite our work towards universal Pharmacare. Stay tuned for more action.