For those of us who have operated a retail business, we understand the importance of securing reliable suppliers who provide a combination of a high quality products or services at the most competitive wholesale price possible.
When a business owner finds a first rate supplier, he or she is careful to make sure that invoices are paid on time and that a healthy relationship of trust is maintained.
After all, replacing a quality business relationship is much easier said than done.
Predictably, our government-run health care monopoly, otherwise known as Alberta Health Services (AHS), has once again shown a complete lack of understanding in this regard.
Several months ago I detailed how AHS had made it financially disadvantageous for the City of Airdrie to keep its provincially-renowned integrated fire and ambulance service.
Despite Airdrie EMS providing much better emergency response times than what AHS was providing in Calgary, and despite the integrated service being far more cost effective for taxpayers, the Health Superboard bureaucrats decided centralized control was a more important issue, and we lost our service (and the fantastic leadership of Chief Sheldon Leavitt to boot).
In other words, AHS terminated its relationship with one of its best suppliers of health care without any logical explanation.
Unfortunately, the gang at AHS was back at it this month with yet another example of why the mass centralization of health care administration is this province has proven to be an abject failure.
AHS has just ended their agreement with Networc Health, the province’s most cost effective and time efficient hip and knee surgical centre.
And once again, they have ended this relationship for absolutely no logical reason.
To review, Networc Health (which operates out of the old Grace Hospital in Calgary) is a private surgical centre that was performing approximately 1,000 publicly funded hip and knee replacement surgeries for Calgary and area residents each year.
There was no queue-jumping, cream skimming or private payments; this was simply a way for our strained public system to reduce the size of the public wait time for hip and knee replacements by contracting out surgeries to a private clinic thereby reducing the need for new health infrastructure.
According to the independent Alberta Bone and Joint Institute (which is funded by AHS), Networc Health provided hip and knee surgeries approximately 40 per cent faster and 40 per cent cheaper than what it costs to do the same procedure in a public hospital.
In other words, Networc was saving Albertans millions each year, and providing the highest quality hip and knee surgeries in the province.
In fact, Networc was doing such a good job that the Calgary Health Region (CHR), before it was amalgamated into the new AHS Superboard, decided to increase the publicly funded surgeries performed by Networc each year to roughly 3500.
However, in order to do so, CHR instructed Networc to acquire a larger facility in order to accommodate the increased surgeries. Networc did so and leased a specially designed building to accomplish just that.
Unfortunately, during that time period, AHS was born and on came Dr. Stephen Duckett. During the chaotic transition from nine health regions to a single health Superboard, the promised increase in surgeries for Networc never materialized.
Because of this, Networc was unable to pay for the new lease and was forced into insolvency.
Even at that point however, there was still an opportunity to restructure things so Networc Health could survive and continue with its current allotment of 1,000 surgeries per year out of the old Grace Hospital; however, for some reason, AHS refused to play ball.
One possible explanation is that AHS had just opened up an almost $600 million McCaig Centre for orthopedics which had nearly no staff.
What better way to find staff for their brand new building than by putting Networc Health out of business and moving its staff over to the McCaig Centre?
After all, AHS had to justify opening an empty new $600 million health facility.
So the bottom line is this. AHS has put out of business the province’s highest performing hip and knee surgical centre.
This will cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars each year.
It will significantly increase wait times.
And, despite Premier Stelmach’s assertion this week that the Government wants to explore more private delivery of publicly funded services, this debacle has ensured that no health care entrepreneur in their right mind would ever trust this Government enough to invest their dollars in Alberta…after all Networc Health trusted them, and look what happened to them.