As the UCP government pushes forward with more publicly funded surgeries at private facilities, NDP leader Rachel Notley recalled the tragic outcomes for seniors in private long-term care homes in Canada during the pandemic.
“We learned that privately delivered long-term care versus publicly delivered long-term care resulted in more deaths, more illnesses as a result of COVID,” Notley said during a press conference on Tuesday.
“That was a clear demonstration of what people have been saying over and over again, that private delivery often undermines the quality of care. Why? Because there is a need for a profit margin be secured that does not exist within the public system.”
On Monday Health Minister Jason Copping said that starting next month the private surgical facilities Canadian Surgery Solutions in Calgary will offer more than 3,000 publicly funded hip and knee replacements and other joint procedures a year under a new contract with Alberta Health Services.
Currently about 6,000 people in Calgary are waiting for orthopedic surgeries and more than half are waiting longer than the clinically appropriate time for knee and hip replacements. The private contract will increase orthopedic procedures performed in the Calgary area by 21 per cent compared with 2021-22.
Last September the UCP announced that a private surgical clinic will be started in central Alberta to reduce long patient waits for knee and hip replacements as well as other non-urgent operations. The goal is to provide 1,350 surgeries a year and a request for proposals was to go out that fall.
United Nurses of Alberta president Heather Smith, said there’s no doubt that a private clinic will take away personnel from Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre which would increase wait times for surgical activity and other hospital services.
“We don’t have a cloning machine. You’re not duplicating people,” Smith said.
She said a private clinic could potentially pilfer staff and any complications on the private side would come back to the public system.
But she also questioned whether Red Deer would actually be a large enough market for a private surgical clinic. The short-lived private clinic Health Resource Centre in Calgary faced bankruptcy in 2010 when it couldn’t get the necessary public contracts for surgical activity and Alberta Health Services had to step in.
“When the private side fails, the public side bails them out, and at the public’s cost.
“(A private clinic) will not make commitments to set up surgical activity in Red Deer unless they are highly subsidized and assured volumes,” Smith said.
In the coming weeks, the NDP says it will present its plan for family medicine that ensures access to a family doctor and solutions to improve staffing.
“I am here today to send a message to Albertans, and to all Canadians: Alberta will not stand idly by and witness the death of Medicare in this country,” Notley said.
“We live in the most prosperous province in Canada and right now, we have a responsibility to show Canadians that we can lead on reforming and strengthening the public health care system, care that can be the envy of the world.”