Candidates reflect on public spending in private clinics

Using public dollars for health care in private facilities is not the prescription to fix wait times in the province say some Central Alberta MLA candidates.

Using public dollars for health care in private facilities is not the prescription to fix wait times in the province say some Central Alberta MLA candidates.

The candidates reacted to Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith’s pledge that her government would pay for certain health care treatments at the public system rate at private clinics inside and outside the province if Albertans do not receive timely service at home.

Kerry Towle, a Wildrose candidate in Innisfail-Sylvan Lake, said if wait times are excessive in Alberta for the 10 common procedures (knee and hip replacement, cataract surgery, etc) then Albertans should have the ability to take the publicly funded money and access that service in a different province whether it be at a public or private facility.

“The reality of it is the sooner we get Albertans back to being healthy and able to join their families again, it’s better for the health-care system over the long run and it’s better for the province,” said Towle.

“I think it’s a great idea and it will eliminate the wait times for all Albertans and we can finally get back to a provincial health-care system that’s on the mend.”

Towle said this is only a temporary measure because the health-care system is currently not working for Albertans and thinking outside the box to find solutions is the key to getting Albertans healthy again.

Mary Anne Jablonksi, the Progressive Conservative incumbent for Red Deer North, said the province already does this in some cases where a committee of doctors and health care professionals that looks at each individual case to make that decision.

Jablonksi said for example, Alberta Health recently paid for a knee surgery on an Alberta man at a private clinic in Toronto at the same rate it would have paid in Alberta.

“I’m certainly supportive of that sort of action but my goal would be to improve the situation here in Alberta first so we don’t have to worry about long wait times,” said Jablonksi.

“That’s where I would be concentrating but like I said we do that in some cases.”

The Tories have promised 140 new family care clinics and fast-track emergency rooms as part of its health-care fix.

Doug Hart, a New Democratic Party candidate in Lacombe-Ponoka, questioned why the common procedures can not be done in Alberta in a timely fashion.

The NDP has promised a fully public health-care system in its platform including reducing emergency times by freeing up acute hospital beds by expanding home care.

“We all know there are long wait times in the emergency departments,” said Hart, a registered nurse at the Red Deer Regional Hospital.

“The demand is greater than the current system allows. I think the government has tried to retract expenses within the system by keeping the system the same but limiting spending in it. I think we need to exercise a little creativity and flexibility in the system, change the system a bit to make it more effective, but not privatize things and pay for people to get their treatment out of province or out of country.”

Mason Sisson, the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre Liberal candidate, also questioned why the Wildrose party would want to pay money outside of the province instead of spending money inside the province to actually fix the problem.

As part of its health-care plan, the Liberals guaranteed Albertans non-emergency surgery within six months and emergency treatment within six hours. Sisson said there needs to be a comprehensive overhaul of the health-care system to do things more efficiently.

“The money should be used) to come up with a comprehensive plan to put our health-care system back into place instead of farming out our health-care problems out to other provinces,” said Sisson. “That is ridiculous.”

Serge Gingras, Red Deer South, Alberta Party candidate said not everyone can afford insurance and are more limited in the kind of care they would receive.

“They do not talk about the extra costs that may be associated with that,” said Gingras. “It might cost more actually to get that care. They don’t say where the money is going to come from.”

Gingras said he is opposed to privatization of health care in that fashion which restricts access to many Albertans.

In its platform, the Alberta Party said it would, “develop and implement a five-year plan to reduce emergency wait times with objective standards established by the health-care practitioners.”