Edmonton MPs say the feds need to step in to protect Alberta healthcare

Edmonton MPs say the feds need to step in to protect Alberta healthcare

Article content

Criticism over the Alberta government’s new health-care system has pushed Edmonton MPs to call on the federal government to ensure federal dollars do not go towards the privatization of health care.

New Democratic Party MP for Edmonton-Griesbach, Blake Desjarlais. and NDP candidate for Edmonton Centre, Trisha Estabrooks, held a press conference on Thursday calling on the federal government to ensure federal dollars are protected under the Canada Health Transfer — the largest major federal transfer to provinces and territories. It aims to provide “long-term, predictable funding for health care and supports the principles of the Canada Health Act.”

Advertisement 2

Article content

Article content

We’ve seen the Federal Government Act before when provinces directly find ways to subsidize private care by way of public dollars. We’ve seen it in the maritime provinces and we’ve seen the federal government in the last few years withhold federal transfer payments under the Health Transfers Act — for example, when we have bad actors,” said Desjarlais. 

On Nov. 8 the Alberta government announced plans to dismantle Alberta Health Services, the province’s health-care provider, as part of a series of restructuring moves that will spread its role across multiple new service delivery agencies.

Under the new changes, AHS will focus on acute care and continuing care. It would share that role with two new organizations, one that oversees the delivery of hospital care, urgent care centres, cancer care, and emergency medical services, and another that will co-ordinate primary health-care services and provide transparent provincial oversight.

Two new additional organizations will focus on continuing care and mental health and addiction.

Related Stories

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

Estabrooks said wait times at the Royal Alexandra Hospital this morning stretched to 6.5 hours. She added the information was not new, but raised her concerns of whether or not the remodelling of the health-care system will help alleviate these wait times and medical professional burnout. 

Edmontonians are worried. I think they’re scared to get sick. I was out on the doors talking to folks and I met a senior who said to me that without a family doctor — hearing from many of her friends who need care and are going to the hospital — she’s concerned of what will happen if she has to go to the hospital and get the care that she needs at a time when we need to be hiring more health-care workers,” said Estabrooks. 

A spokesperson from the office of Alberta Health Minister Adriana LaGrange said the reforms had “nothing to do with privatization” and said they anticipate no job losses to AHS staff working in frontline positions.

“The premier made a public health care guarantee to Albertans. That means no one will ever have to pay out of pocket for a visit to a doctor or for hospital services, and that is not changing,” said Charlotte Taillon, senior press secretary to the minister of health.

Advertisement 4

Article content

“These reforms have nothing to do with privatization. They are also not about cuts. Alberta’s government will continue to grow the health-care workforce and we anticipate that there will be no job losses to AHS staff working in frontline positions who are directly delivering patient care. In fact, our government knows that Alberta needs more health-care workers, and so we’ll continue to recruit and train more of them.” 

Desjarlais’s concerns come at a time when privatization of health care is on the rise, citing how Albertans are already paying thousands to get necessary surgeries. He said they’re looking at the feds to step up.

“This is something the federal government can have a direct hand in. The Liberals promised that they would fix health care in their last federal campaign. We’re not seeing it. We need a government that’s courageous enough to say no to premiers when they want to opt out of the Canada Health Act,” said Desjarlais. 

With files from Matthew Black 

Article content