Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley came to Red Deer — the “epicentre” of Alberta’s health care woes — to urge Premier Danielle Smith to ‘detail’ her support for public health care.
The quality of health services has declined throughout Alberta over the past few years, said Notley, but she believes the situation at Red Deer hospital is among the worst in the province; “It’s the epicentre…”
Red Deer North NDP representative Jaelene Tweedle noted emergency room waits at Red Deer hospital are exceeding a dozen hours in many cases, as helicopters fly local patients to Edmonton and Calgary for care they can‘t get closer to home.
Tweedle also recalled the alarming scenario on April 26 when 14 ambulances lined-up waiting to transfer patients into Red Deer hospital.
Rather than starting on the promised Red Deer hospital expansion, and tackling other problems plaguing Alberta’s health care system, Smith and her UCP government are instead creating more “chaos” by firing Alberta Health Services administrators, noted Notley. She believes hiring rather than firings, should now be the priority.
The opposition leader held a press conference in Red Deer on Tuesday, along with Tweedle and Red Deer South NDP representative Michelle Baer, to call out the recently named premier for appearing in 16-month-old videos in which Smith discusses the possibility to reinstating health care premiums and suggested setting up a health spending account for each Albertan.
On Monday, Smith stated she’s committed to public health care on Twitter, saying the $300 health spending accounts she wants to introduce are a “bonus” for Albertans, to help pay for costs not covered by Alberta Health Services.
The Premier’s office elaborated on Tuesday, stating: “Premier Smith has committed to introducing Health Savings Accounts to help Albertans afford healthcare costs that are not covered by our publicly funded health system, and that they currently pay out of pocket or through private insurance. This will make health care more comprehensive and more accessible to Albertans.
“The government will be ensuring Albertans have access to more health services and will not be de-listing any that are currently provided. The NDP’s suggestions that Albertans will have to pay user fees on doctor’s visits or other publicly funded services is not true. The government of Alberta is focused on making real change and supporting the hard work of our frontline workers to ensure better health outcomes for all Albertans.”
But Notley feels Smith has “a very strong history” of advocating for user-pay contributions towards health care.
If she’s now saying otherwise, six months before an election, she needs to provide the same level of detail to Albertans as she did when arguing for more out-of-pocket payments towards health costs, added Notley. “I don’t trust her and I don’t think Albertans should either.”
Alberta Health minister Jason Copping publicly stated this week he has no plans to bring in monthly health care premiums.