EDMONTON — This afternoon, Danielle Smith tabled her first Speech from the Throne since being re-elected Premier. The speech promises disappointingly little in terms of protecting and improving Alberta’s public health care, and continues to push their failing agenda of privatization. There was no indication as to how the government plans to repair the damage they have wreaked on Alberta’s public health care system, besides proposing a vague commitment to decentralize health care decision making.
“This Speech from the Throne and the agenda they’ve laid out for the coming legislative session will do little to help our public health care system as it continues to struggle under multiple overlapping crises,” said Chris Gallaway, Executive Director of Friends of Medicare. “Rather than taking this important opportunity to protect and strengthen our public health care system for all Albertans, today’s Throne Speech continues the government’s ideological push to see even more of our public health dollars going to boost private profits."
This past summer, a Calgary clinic informed patients they would be moving to a costly membership system for primary care. While the clinic ultimately backed down on the proposal following outcry from Albertans, we have seen nothing from this government to protect patients from these sorts of access fees in the future.
“During the election, Premier Smith ran on a much-touted ‘Public Health Guarantee’, and repeatedly promised that no Albertan would ever have to pay to visit a family doctor. This fall legislative session is her chance to keep her public health guarantee by moving quickly to support such legislation," said Gallaway. “Today’s Throne Speech was a missed opportunity to move forward with legislation that would prohibit membership fees for accessing a family doctor or other publicly insured medical services."
This Throne Speech comes at a time when Albertans are increasingly worried about access to the health care they need, as a widespread short staffing crisis continues to impact every part of our health care system. Tens of thousands of people in this province continue to be without a family doctor, and dozens of facilities across the province are still facing repeated temporary closures. Yet today’s speech prioritized decentralizing decision making, instead of any meaningful action on staffing or improving access.
“Proposals to create more chaos by restructuring Alberta Health Services aren’t what Albertans need to hear right now,” said Gallaway. “With so many health care workers openly contemplating leaving the system, or the province, the government must act quickly to show they respect our health care workers, and prioritize a plan to retain those already working so hard to keep Alberta’s health care system afloat.”
While the government has said it would not be on the agenda for the fall legislative session, we are extremely concerned to see that the Throne Speech makes it clear the government plans to move forward with harmful proposed legislation allowing forced treatment for people who use drugs. Friends of Medicare continue to call on Albertans to support an evidenced-based approach to the ongoing toxic drug crisis.