Kenney Still Hasn't Ruled Out More Private Health Care
Following today's public signing of the "public health guarantee" made by United Conservative Party leader, Jason Kenney, Albertans were left sifting through carefully scripted rhetoric. Friends of Medicare are unconvinced that the announcement was any more than a PR visual, as it lacked both clarity and commitment to finding public solutions to the challenges within our health care system.
Kenney pledged to complete a performance review of Alberta Health Services if he gains office, and promised that "if" we find money he will consider reinvesting the "savings" into front line services. However, he shared no clear direction as to where the estimated $300-450 million would be coming from. "Health care needs sustainable funding regardless of the economic reality," said Sandra Azocar, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. "People do not stop needing health care whether the economy is bad or doing well."
Though Kenney claims that he will explore "choice" and "competition" as a way to find and cut costs, health care advocates know these phrases to be well-worn euphemisms for privatization. "Politicians have heard Albertans say again and again that we know we can't afford private health care and that it is not what we want," said Azocar. "They know that privatizing our public health care is a political landmine that they do not want to set off."
Kenney hailed the example of private surgical clinics in Saskatchewan as a success story - what he failed to mention was that from 2009 to 2014, the Saskatchewan government spent $176 million to create these facilities, and another $60.5 million as support in 2015. While initially these facilities did see a decrease in the province's surgical wait times, as soon as government funding significantly slowed down, the wait times have been steadily climbing. "This is a perfect example that a private solution to a public problem is the wrong direction for governments to take," said Azocar. "We need systemic changes that will address issues of wait times, but they must be in line with the vision of improving on the solid foundation that we have within our public system."
Election 2019 will be a referendum on who we can trust to care for our loved ones. As Albertans, we have right to know exactly where political parties stand before we cast our ballots. Albertans want a principled approach to health care: one that is grounded in the deeply held values of equity and fairness that underlie our health system; that supports democratic governance and processes; that engages the existing resources in the physicians and surgeon, nurses, health professionals and support workers who are committed to providing care, and that builds upon and looks to improve the health care governance structures that already exist, while addressing the shortfalls in the system.
Friends of Medicare is calling on the UCP and all political parties to be straight up with Albertans about their plans and vision as to how they will improve our public health care system. Health care is too important to shroud behind vote-pandering rhetoric.