Time to fix health care
A column by Airdrie MLA Rob Anderson
Over the past several weeks, I have been receiving emails and letters from many frustrated Albertans who feel exasperated at the state of Albertaís health care system. The Alberta Health Services expense scandal (AHS CFO Allaudin Merali charging taxpayers for things like butler services and repairs to his Mercedes) has obviously upset a lot of people; but it clearly runs much deeper than that. People are starting to come to the conclusion that our current health system is fatally flawed and systemic reforms are needed if it is ever to be fixed.
As a province we spend, per person, more than any other province and almost every nation with a first-world universal health care system, and yet our results are shockingly poor.
Waiting in pain for needed specialists and surgeries is an Alberta epidemic in all but a few of the most important procedures such as cancer care and heart surgery (although waits for these are starting to grow as well).
Once Albertans get in to see their doctor or surgeon, the results are greatÖitís getting in thatís the tough and painful part. Access to long waiting lists is not universal health care Ė itís a prison sentence. Why should Albertans be forced to live like this when we pay so much into the system? How is it humane to force people to use a system that doesnít work?
The culprits for this situation are many; government corruption (remember Redfordís public inquiry flip flop), mass centralization and chaotic system changes (Superboard), public monopoly on the delivery of care and union regulations to name a few of the bigger ones. But one thing is certain Ė the system is broken, unsustainable and changes are a must if we are to save our public health-care system Ė and just pumping more cash into the black hole is clearly not the answer.
Government should work with health care professionals in the system to gradually decentralize the delivery of health care services to locally funded, managed and integrated hospitals and Primary Care Networks where it makes sense. This will make our health system far more responsive to local community needs. Why should a City like Airdrie or Leduc have to wait for AHS to figure out what is needed in their community?
We could reduce wait times for specialists and medical procedures by opening delivery of publicly paid for health services to any accredited private and non-profit health service provider. If a private or non-profit provider can deliver the same or better quality of care, more quickly and at a reduced cost to government (thereby allowing the government to pay for more services for the same dollars), that health provider should have the opportunity to compete with the public system for every patient.
Albertans should not have to live in pain because our government canít get its act together.
The time for talk is far past.
Itís time to hire a Government with the courage to fix health care.