Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare, made the following statement today following the Alberta government's Throne Speech:
The 2020 Throne Speech not only outlines business that the government will bring to the Legislative Assembly in the upcoming session, but also serves to direct the political discourse and narrative intended to shape and influence how we view and respond to the political challenges facing us.
When it comes to health care policy, this year’s Throne Speech provided little more than a reiteration of prior announcements already made by the government. We saw once again their commitment to cutting and privatizing throughout the sector, through reforms like the Surgical Wait Times Initiative. Again, we see that this government will be moving forward with little regard to the patients and health care providers who are already being impacted by their wayward economic policy decisions made in the name of short-term “savings.”
While the Throne Speech repeated the government’s narrative that the health care budget would not see a decrease, we know that even in economic downturns Alberta’s population continues to grow each year, meaning more pressure on the health care system. People who move to Alberta do not bring hospitals or nurses with them. The Throne Speech spoke of maintaining public services and health care, but we are already seeing wages and staffing levels frozen for doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other auxiliary medical staff. Cuts to front-line staff always have impacts on the patients who rely on their care, and we can expect the effects in Alberta will be no different.
The Throne Speech made no mention of elder care and the current crisis that our continuing care system is currently under. We are experiencing a shortage of beds available to provide care for those that are lingering in alternate levels of care and awaiting Long Term Care beds.
Refusing to invest in common sense solutions like: increasing the availability of public diagnostic imaging rather than contracting out to private, for-profit companies; increasing staffing levels in health care facilities rather than cutting staff; investing in the health of Albertans rather than cutting compensation for primary care physicians – all signal that this government is willing chase short-term savings at the expense of long term health care needs of Albertans. Not only will these decisions have impacts on Albertans in the coming year, they will no doubt have extensive down-stream effects on our public health care system for years to come. Cuts to rural health care services for instance, will mean not only a less healthy population, but will also result in a greater cost burden placed on other areas of our health care, and longer wait times in emergency rooms.
If the government is serious about making life better for Albertans, it must be committed to making investments to improve and strengthen our public health care system for the benefit of Albertans now, and for generations to come.