October 20th, 2019

Are we getting value for our health care dollars?

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on August 9, 2019.

gslade@medicinehatnews.com@MHNGillianSlade

The Fraser Institute says an average Canadian family of four will pay $13,311 this year for government health care.

That is a 65.8 per cent increase in 22 years.

Additionally, you pay for dental, eye care, massage therapy and prescriptions, or pay a premium for private coverage for this.

It is important for Canadians, Albertans and Hatters to understand what we are paying for health care, otherwise we don’t know if we are getting good value for our money.

The Alberta government has launched a review of healthcare and we should be looking at duplication and whether this is contributing to high costs.

For more than a decade Alberta Health Services has been in charge of the delivery of health care. Operating along with Covenant Health, to a lesser extent, as separate corporations with CEOs, vice presidents, zone managers, directors, officers of health, etc., who are funded by taxpayers.

It is therefore interesting to see how many people are on the sunshine salary list for the ministry of health. There are zone managers, senior zone managers, several assistant deputy ministers, a deputy minister, an associate deputy minister, officers of health and so on. There are more than 100 people on this list who receive more than $115,000 in salary and up to $314,599 for a deputy minister. It would be interesting to know why we need upper management overseeing upper management at AHS where a CEO earns more than $600,000.

In Ontario this week a long-awaited report was released looking into how a nurse in a seniors residence, Elizabeth Wettlaufer, could kill eight residents in a decade without management realizing. In fact, we already know from the trial that there were situations where management was persuaded to overlook issues with Wettlaufer.

The report was 1,400 pages long and included 91 recommendations, but, according to media reports, Justice Eileen Gillese, who headed the inquiry, felt it was really nobody’s fault.

This boggles the mind because there are senior managers in charge at seniors residences. They are paid a higher wage for that responsibility.

Our society seems to have got into a comfort zone where we do not hold anyone accountable anymore. We no longer think it acceptable to cast blame and hold people responsible. We want to consider everyone winners so that nobody feels bad.

Gillese commented on the need to fix the system rather than the people who work in it. The trouble is the system does not take care of itself. People make the system work or not.

Seniors are living longer and have more complex health care needs.

We do not need more regulations or new systems. We need people on the front lines who are adequately compensated for their work and there are some amazing people in these roles. The people in charge, many absolutely dedicated, who earn the big bucks have to be held accountable when things go wrong, and, better yet, anticipate what could go wrong and make changes

It does not have to cost more, this is more about a shift in thinking.

It does not take a study and then introducing another best practice.

We need people who are willing to take responsibility and be held accountable, and to reduce unnecessary levels of management.

To see a list of public servant salaries, visit https://www.alberta.ca/salary-and-severance-disclosure-table.aspx.

Gillian Slade is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to https://www.medicinehatnews.com/opinions, email her at gslade@medicinehatnews.com or call her at 403-528-8635.

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