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Emergency room crisis - How did we get here?

What if tomorrow I told you the PC government had determined that because food is essential to the health of its citizens, it would be taking over the production, transportation and delivery of all food for Albertans? I highly doubt your reaction wou

What if tomorrow I told you the PC government had determined that because food is essential to the health of its citizens, it would be taking over the production, transportation and delivery of all food for Albertans? I highly doubt your reaction would be very positive. I think most of us would wonder why we were following the lead of the former Soviet Union...you know, the food shortages and mile-long line ups for a stick of butter.

Most Albertans rightly understand that government monopolies do not work. And furthermore, they understand that the larger and more complicated a system is, the worse a government monopoly is at managing it.

Yet despite this obvious and historically proven fact, Canadians, and especially Albertans, have put up with a government-run health monopoly for decades. And what’s worse, every time that system shows signs of inevitable failure (as it does now), our provincial government tries to solve the problem by centralizing and monopolizing the system even further!

Our government health monopoly has blown up hospitals and shut down others. It has strangled high-performing competitors out of business. It has eliminated every spec of regional and local autonomy over health matters. Remember Airdrie EMS? And it has now consolidated itself into one massive, lumbering bureaucratic mothership – the Alberta Health Superboard.

And what have been the results? In the last year, emergency room wait times have increased 54 per cent. One year – 54 per cent longer waits. That’s a 15-20 hour longer wait on average per person; this in a year when the PC government has wheel-barrowed an increase of 16 per cent into the health budget.

The numbers are staggering; frankly, they are almost unbelievable. But what’s scarier are the stories our ER doctors are now sharing with us.

Dr. Paul Parks, a respected ER physician, in his letter that blew the lid off this crisis, says that our emergency room system is on the verge of collapse. Dr. Grant Innes, the physician charged with emergency room oversight in Calgary, says he has never seen things this bad in the ER.

And then there are the 322 emergency room horror stories leaked to the media last week from just one Edmonton emergency room over a mere six-month period. (I apologize as some of these are very disturbing but need to be shared).

The document discloses cases of people having heart attacks and dying while waiting for a bed. Pregnant women having full examinations performed on them in open triage. Young people vomiting blood repeatedly for over seven hours before being assessed. The stories go on and on like a horrifying depiction of a third-world country.

Our courageous ER doctors are totally overwhelmed. There aren’t enough nurses or beds or even supplies in some cases. And what’s worse, front line staff members are powerless to make things better. Why? Because, not only do they lack the manpower, even when they identify potential efficiencies they can’t implement them without nine levels of often politically-motivated bureaucracy standing in the way.

The Wildrose Alliance will be releasing its plan to fix health care. Our solutions are bold and will challenge conventional Liberal, New Democrat and PC dogma. We will propose a health system focused on patient choice and provider competition within a publicly funded system. We will call for a massive decentralization of decision-making power down to front-line doctors and nurses and away from a disbanded Superboard. We will ask for our already massive health care budget to be refocused on training and staffing the health infrastructure we already have rather than building empty buildings for politically-motivated ribbon cuttings.

Some might say this is a risky platform for a new Party to run on; that proposing real health reform is scary. In my view, these people have it backwards. Keeping the health care system we have now is scary.

Just ask the folks painfully waiting in your local emergency room.


Airdrie City View Staff

About the Author: Airdrie City View Staff

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