EDMONTON — Earlier today the Governments of Canada and Alberta announced an agreement in principle for increased federal health funding. The agreement states some good shared goals, but it is concerning that there are no strings or accountability measures attached to this new federal money.
“There is no doubt that our provincial public health care system is in need of more support right now, but new federal dollars must come with accountability measures and strings attached to ensure that it goes where patients need it,” said Chris Gallaway, executive director of Friends of Medicare. “Our Premier should not be handed a blank cheque to be used to accelerate their plans for further privatization. Unfortunately, that’s what we saw with today’s agreement in principle.”
Premier Smith, Health Minister Copping and AHS Administrator Dr. Cowell also provided a 90-day update on their Health Care Action Plan this afternoon. The plan continues to prioritize expanding the use of private, for-profit surgical centres, rather than supporting and strengthening our public health care system.
“The government’s slogan right now is ‘Help is on the Way,’ but what was made clear by this afternoon’s press conference is that an election is on the way,” said Gallaway. “The government knows that health care is a top issue for Albertans. What we saw in today’s update was a list of cherry-picked stats in an attempt to change the channel on the government’s disastrous health care record, and a doubling down of their plans to plow ahead with privatization in surgeries, in Emergency Medical Services, and more.”
Friends of Medicare and others have repeatedly spoken out at length about the problems with the government’s Alberta Surgical Initiative and their unfounded claims that privatization will improve surgical wait times. Albertans have already witnessed how handing public health care funding over to for-profit surgical facilities will ultimately leave our public system to pick up the pieces.
“I don’t know who Premier Smith has been talking to to suggest that Alberta’s health care system is no longer in crisis, but that is not what we’ve been hearing from Albertans, and certainly not from front line health care workers,” continued Gallaway. “Over 30 hospitals and health care facilities across the province are currently facing repeated temporary closures due to ongoing staffing shortages, and any expansion of private, for-profit facilities is only going to make our staffing challenges worse. Opening for-private surgical centres doesn’t create more surgeons, nurses or anesthesiologists, it simply pulls them out of the public health care system."
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