Citizens have a right to health information

It is not often that we the Central Alberta Council on Aging (CACA) agree with the Fraser Institute and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

It is not often that we the Central Alberta Council on Aging (CACA) agree with the Fraser Institute and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Recent press releases indicated their dissatisfaction with the refusal of Alberta Health and Wellness to release meaningful information about quality indicators at individual hospital and health facilities.

We agree because we, too, are dissatisfied with the accountability and transparency of our ever-changing health-care system

Our CACA health committee has on many occasions requested information on cost per patient data in the two remaining publicly owned and operated nursing homes in our community (Red Deer and Valley Park Nursing Homes).

Only last week we repeated our request to the executives of the former David Thompson Health Region (now called the Central Zone). Our numerous requests are received, sometimes discussed but never directly addressed in a written reply.

The Central Alberta Council on Aging wants to know what Alberta citizens are paying today for publicly operated services, and what the Alberta government will be paying (on their behalf) to private corporations when the two nursing homes are eliminated.

As taxpayers, we want to know what the government’s downloading (and the shifting to private-for-profit insurance and care corporations) is costing us now and for future generations

The reason why we seek this information is because of the continued reference by various ministers of the Crown to the unsustainability of seniors’ programs.

This needs to be challenged, especially when the discontinuation of universality and the down loading of costs to individuals are threatened.

The public needs to be able to determine the cost of the privatization of elder care, now and in the future. There has been no information provided to the taxpayers about this, and no public debate on this important issue

Now that Health Minister Ron Liepert and Dr. Stephen Duckett, CEO of Alberta Health Services, are setting out to centralize control, to contain and to reduce budgets, and to reduce services and capital investment in health care, Albertans need to know the effects of this new direction on services needed by them.

The rush to privatization may be caused by a tired government unwilling and unable to look after our interest, finding it more convenient to shift responsibility to corporations who hide behind “Corporate Competition Privacy Concerns.”

We are asking the minister and MLAs about our taxes and how they are investing them in our health-care system. We would like to know why large grants are given to private organizations. We want to know how the benefits to Albertans are accounted for.

When private-for-profit corporations are contracted to provide essential care and accommodation services, we need to know if there is equity in their charges, the funding they receive, and if we get value for money.

Former Premier Don Getty arranged for health-care statements to be sent to Albertans on a quarterly basis. This gave citizens an opportunity to see and check what was paid to doctors and specialist on their behalf.

This was very helpful for patients to appreciate the cost and respect the wonderful people who serve us. Why can’t there be similar transparency now about seniors’ care?

We will continue to ask our MLAs to assist us in our request for 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 budget and expenditure information for our existing publicly owned and operated nursing homes.

It is public money they are spending. Citizens have a right to know.

Sam Denhaan

President

Central Alberta Council on Aging

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