‘Meddling’ leaves Albertans more vulnerable, says Swann

The Alberta government’s health-care meddling has left the province more vulnerable to outbreaks such as swine flu, said Liberal Leader David Swann in Red Deer Thursday.

David Swann

The Alberta government’s health-care meddling has left the province more vulnerable to outbreaks such as swine flu, said Liberal Leader David Swann in Red Deer Thursday.

The elimination of regional health boards has left a disrupted system with too few beds and health professionals and where both health professionals and patients are unclear about the direction being taken, said Swann in an interview before heading to a pair of local Liberal constituency annual general meetings in the city.

“There’s really a lot of disruption in the communications, which are so critical to managing a health-care system. There is no sense we’re saving money or providing better patient care,” said Swann, who spent 30 years as a medical doctor before entering politics.

“And especially at a time like this with the flu crashing in on us, it makes us very vulnerable I would argue.

“And it makes the professionals in the system feel very vulnerable, that they are on the edge of what they can cope with and now there is potential for significant new demands on the system.”

The province has planning in place to handle major disease outbreaks, but the health-care overhaul has left health professionals unsure of who is in charge and how would already overflowing hospitals cope with a massive influx of new patients.

“This may be a mild, relatively mild, epidemic of influenza. But we may make it much worse because we are not able to provide the spaces and the professionals and the clear communications that people expect in a modern society.”

Swann said the government of Premier Ed Stelmach has also failed in its job of managing the province’s finances and resources.

The government continues to rely on the dwindling supply of conventional energy sources and failed to pursue the greener technologies that will be needed in the future.

“There’s been a real lack of vision for the future,” he said.

Fossil fuels will always be needed, at least in this lifetime, but efforts need to be made on the technical and research fronts to be ready for new technologies.

“We don’t see that happening at any kind of the pace that it needs to happen at this government level.”

On the financial front, Albertans do not understand where the money has gone. The Heritage Trust Fund is no bigger than it was in the days of former premier Peter Lougheed and the government has over-spent on every budget it has passed in the past 10 years.

While the debt has been paid off and the government has faced major infrastructure costs, the Conservative government has created many of its own problems because of its lack of foresight, he said.

“Without a plan, everything becomes urgent.”

Swann said in the wake of the last election, which saw the party lose seven of its 16 seats, the Liberals have decided to take a hard look at ways to better connect with the large numbers of Albertans who want to see an effective opposition in place to keep the government accountable.

“We now need Albertans to be renewed in their belief that an opposition is important, that democracy is important, that the future is being compromised by some poor decisions at the top and that it is time to get engaged.”

The party has turned to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and websites, such as www.myalberta.org, to get a read on what the public is looking for. By mid-June the renewal effort is expected to come up with recommendations on where to take the party.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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