A few weeks ago, with Halloween just around the corner, the government introduced the new Alberta Health Act in the legislature. How appropriate that timing was, as the Act, like Halloween, appears to require Albertans to suspend their disbelief. The principles being proposed for the Health Act sounds rosy and includes, quality and safety, timely and appropriate care, and access not based on ability to pay. However, many of these principles are already being violated across the province; rural Albertans cannot access timely care and seniors across Alberta are often accessing care based on ability to pay, not need. Just before the act hit the legislature, emergency room doctors went to the media with their fears of a likely collapse of timely emergency care in the province. Suggesting that the Tory government created the current crisis in health care, the speaker believe that it is part of a long-term campaign to privatize health services and cut spending on hospitals and long-term care in this province. Hospital spending in Alberta has plummeted from 44.7 per cent of health spending in 1975 to 27.8 per cent in 2009. Despite our vast wealth, Alberta has fewer hospital beds than Canada’s average and is in the bottom third of developed countries. The same applies for long-term care. Alberta has half the beds per capita that Manitoba has and Alberta also sits close to the bottom for home-care spending, again half that of Manitoba. The speaker will argue that this province have plenty of resources, but is sadly lacking the political will to allocate sufficient and thoughtful health care funding, thanks in part to lobbying for the contrary by private interest.
Speaker: Diana Gibson
Diana Gibson is the Research Director for the Parkland Institute, a public policy research center based at the University of Alberta. She has an extensive background in social policy research and has engaged nationally and internationally on topics ranging from health care and energy, to the environment and international trade agreements. Diana is also the lead author of the “Bottom Line: The truth about private health insurance in Canada”, a book that was on the Edmonton Journal’s best seller list for four weeks running.
Moderator: Beverly Muendel-Atherstone