About 10 central Albertans joined protesters on their way to Health Minister Tyler Shandro’s Calgary constituency on Wednesday.
Friends of Medicare and Public Interest Alberta chartered a bus for Albertans concerned about the UCP government’s cuts and privatization to the provincial health-care system and seniors care.
The Calgary-bound bus that arrived from Edmonton on Wednesday morning had about 30 people on board before it stopped in Gasoline Alley. More people were expected to hop on in Calgary.
Sandra Azocar, Friends of Medicare executive director, said Albertans want to see more innovation to address health-care challenges, not service cuts and privatization.
“(The provincial government) likes to talk about transformation, but all that we’re seeing is tired, old privatization experiments that have not resulted in any success in the past, and yet they’re brought forward as new ideas,” Azocar said.
“It’s kind of discouraging to see this government has chosen a political bent over the improvement and expansion of our public health care.”
She said Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre has been clamouring for an upgrade for a long time, but it wasn’t reflected in the recent Alberta Health Services review commissioned by the province.
Re-organizing and reducing hospital services are part of that review. Hospital laundry services, including in Red Deer, are already in the process of being privatized.
“Rural communities that depend on their hospital to be there are going to be impacted,” Azocar said.
Joel French, Public Interest Alberta executive director, said it’s easy to feel helpless when our health system is being dismantled and under attack. But more Albertans are standing up and fighting back, he said.
“It’s up to Albertans to stand up and speak out and say that this is the wrong direction,” French said.
“We’re seeing more than 5,000 front-line layoffs of health-care staff, which is shocking after Jason Kenney went into the election with a public health guarantee that he would not be cutting front-line health care.
“I don’t think this is what people thought they were voting for,” French said.
A statement from Health Minister Tyler Shandro said his government campaigned on maintaining or increasing health spending and increasing access, starting with funding 80,000 more surgeries to reduce wait times.
“We’re getting costs in line with other provinces and reinvesting every dollar we save back into the health system,” Shandro said.