Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan says Alberta Health Services has fallen down on the job of providing enough intensive care beds for Albertans.
In a statement in the legislature on Monday, Stephan said Alberta Health Services should acknowledge its failings.
“We spend about $23 billion on this system, among the highest per capita in Canada. Why, with this massive amount of money, can AHS only produce ICU beds, on a per capita basis, that is not even half of the worst of the U.S. states?” Stephan said in his statement.
On Tuesday, Alberta Health Services said the number of beds and other healthcare resources in Alberta are comparable to other provinces based on the needs of the population, and it’s not accurate to compare Alberta’s healthcare system to the U.S. system.
“The U.S. generally has far higher costs and more resources per capita, but many U.S. states have experienced severe pressure on their hospitals at different stages of the pandemic, similar to the pressure on hospitals in Alberta and some other provinces,” said a statement from AHS.
The agency said it has been successful in increasing hospital and ICU capacity throughout the pandemic, well above the baseline number of beds and ICU spaces.
“This is true of the fourth wave – at the peak last month, we had added 203 additional ICU surge spaces for a total of 376, more than double our baseline of 173 beds, and more than the total in wave 2 or 3 (totals of 291 and 295 ICU spaces respectively).
“We have been able to meet demand throughout all four waves of the pandemic, and continue to provide ICU care to all of those who need it.
AHS said the baseline number of general adult ICU beds has always been adequate to care for Albertans, outside of the pandemic.
“As seen during all four waves, we have the ability to increase capacity as needed.”
On Tuesday, Stephan told the Advocate that he has heard lots of complaints about Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre and the lack of equitable funding for the hospital. This week Stephan said he will be speaking with Jason Copping, who was appointed health minister in September.
“As Canadians, we pride ourselves on our health care system. There are good things about it, but I’m very disappointed at the results that we have seen,” Stephan said.
“We spend over 40 per cent of our budget on health,” he said about Alberta’s finances.
He said there is a lot of room for improvement and the MLA once again called for a comprehensive public inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 instead of the political inquiry that the NDP insist upon.
“I want a public, independent inquiry. I’m not interesting in politicizing this. I want government to learn from its successes and its failures, and be better. I’ve been calling for an independent public inquiry since the spring.”
He said there are many different types of health care systems internationally, including the privatized system in the U.S., and Alberta needs to look at the strengths and advantages of those systems.
When you say let’s be better, people automatically assume you support American-style privatization, Stephan said.
“That’s not what I’m saying at all. But as it relates to ICU capacity, they’re sure better than us.”