Going under the knife

Albertans have nothing to fear and better health care to gain as Alberta Health Services gets ready to cut $250 million in health-care spending this year and at least $650 million next year, says a Red Deer MLA.

Albertans have nothing to fear and better health care to gain as Alberta Health Services gets ready to cut $250 million in health-care spending this year and at least $650 million next year, says a Red Deer MLA.

“Albertans have an expectation that we’re going to provide them with an improved-patient focused system that’s accessible and provide services when and where they need it,” said Red Deer South MLA Cal Dallas on Tuesday.

“Albertans understand in order to get a different result we have to make some changes.”

On Tuesday, Alberta Health Services announced expenses climbed 13.2 per cent to $10.8 billion in 2009-10 while revenue only increased 6.5 per cent to $9.7 billion.

Specific plans to cut costs have not been released yet to deal with that $1.1-billion health care deficit.

Strategies to save $250 million in 2009-10 will be announced over the next few months but AHS says potential savings include streamlining management, harnessing the benefits of integration, implementing province-wide procurement and supply management, as well as utilizing available resources efficiently.

In 2010-11, the goal is to reduce costs by at least $650 million.

Dallas said right now the province spends $30 million a day on health care which is a “very substantial investment” and the province is committed to making “the investment necessary to deliver health care that is both appropriate to the needs of Albertans and meets their expectations.”

Ken Collier of Red Deer, president of the Alberta Friends of Medicare board, said AHS is talking about “drastic” cuts.

“They’re big. They affect huge numbers of people who work in the health system and also affect a lot of people who might become patients,” Collier said.

That $1.1 billion deficit is equal to the cost of one in 10 health care workers, he said.

“I don’t know how we’re going to keep our services going when a tenth of the workforce disappears.”

Sam Denhaan, president of Central Alberta Council on Aging, said people have reason to be suspicious of the super board’s cost-cutting strategies after it just announced the temporary shut down of helicopter pads at eight hospitals.

“Privatization is a major goal of this government.”

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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