April 20th, 2019

Alberta spending woes begin with health care

By Mabell, Dave on November 30, 2018.

Dave Mabell

Lethbridge Herald


Albertans spend too much on health care, a Lethbridge audience was told.

But wait times keep getting longer.

Reducing the layers of Alberta Health Services bureaucracy would be one of an Alberta Liberal government’s key steps in trimming the budget and halting yearly deficits, declared party leader David Khan.

But to deal with Alberta’s opioid crisis, he said Thursday, the province must build more treatment centres. The current situation is “completely broken,” he said.

Responding to an audience at the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs, Khan also praised the efforts of Public Interest Alberta in explaining the benefits of a sales tax. But not enough Albertans agree with implementing one, he observed, to make it an election platform plank.

A Liberal government would continue to use a carbon tax, however, as one means of responding to the global warming crisis. But Khan described the Alberta New Democrats’ program as wasteful, saying a more focused approach is needed.

And Albertans are facing an even more visible environmental disaster, he added. Some experts are warning it would cost up to $260 billion to mitigate the ecological impacts of the oilsands developments, he said. Yet since those projects began, the government has collected just $1.6 billion to cover those costs.

“The Conservatives had 40 years” to respond to that situation, Khan said, and the NDP has had nearly four.

“They have both failed us.”

What’s worse, Alberta taxpayers are now on the hook for hundreds of “orphan wells” left uncapped by oil companies moving out of the province or going out of business.

Similarly, Khan said, layers and layers of health system bureaucracy were added during the Conservatives’ years. Again, the NDP has failed to stop its continued expansion.

But his party has been successful in showing the NDP how to reduce one health-care expense, he said. After studying the hours-long wait times faced by EMS personnel when they bring a patient to a city hospital, his Liberal researchers reported 653,000 hours of wasted time – much of it at overtime rates – while responders and ambulances were stuck in the emergency lineup. The health minister approved the hiring of on-site paramedics to take care of those patients, he said, allowing ambulances and crews to get back on the road.

On the other hand, Liberal MLA Dr. David Swann released a government-initiated report on the province’s mental health system two years ago, Khan pointed out.

Since then, very little has changed. Just six per cent of the health budget goes to mental health.

“That’s a poor health-care strategy.”

So is a health response that provides supervised use sites, he said – but little rehabilitation. There’s no Lethbridge treatment facility, he pointed out – just a small centre in Fort Macleod.

“We have to recognize this is a public health emergency and act accordingly.”

And while the current government deserves credit for building classrooms, making schools more inclusive and supporting post-secondary education, Khan said voting for the United Conservative Party to punish the NDP for its errors would be a painful mistake.

Liberals would take a scalpel to the provincial budget, he said, making careful cuts where needed.

Jason Kenney would make “deep, savage cuts that will impact all Albertans.

“Make no mistake, Albertans will feel every cut.”

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One Response to “Alberta spending woes begin with health care”

  1. […] Medicine Hat was the only city to have a decrease in real operating spending per capita from 2006 to 2016 . […]

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