Premier Danielle Smith says the UCP is committed to a publicly funded health care system and announced the party’s public health guarantee on Tuesday.
Smith said Albertans will not have to pay to see a family doctor or to receive medical treatment if the UCP are re-elected.
“You will never use a credit card to pay for a public health-care service. You will only ever need your Alberta Health Care Card,” Smith said during a UCP press conference.
She said under her leadership, a UCP government will also not de-list any medical services or prescriptions now covered by Alberta Health Insurance.
Friends of Medicare says Smith’s guarantee sounds exactly like the guarantee that former UCP leader Jason Kenney made before privatizing large portions of the health-care system once in power.
“It felt like Groundhog Day watching UCP Leader Danielle Smith make another hollow public health guarantee,” said executive director Chris Gallaway in a statement.
He said since forming government, the UCP pursued privatization of community labs, Emergency Medical Services, laundry and food services, ophthalmology, surgeries, seniors care, and home care. They even proposed sending patients, along with their surgeons, to a for-profit clinic in British Columbia for their surgeries.
“Albertans shouldn’t be fooled – the truth is the UCP government’s record in health care is littered with failed privatization schemes, siphoning off our public health-care dollars for the profit of private corporations,” Gallaway said.
NDP health critic David Shepherd said Smith has suggested that Albertans should have to pay a deductible if they have major surgery, and when the NDP recently proposed universal coverage for prescription birth control, she said Albertans should buy private health insurance if they don’t have coverage.
“The premier is repeatedly on the record expressing her deep desire to see Albertans take on, personally, more of the cost of the health-care system,” Shepherd said during a press conference.
Smith said the UCP remain committed to ensuring access to health care. Health-care reforms have already begun to decrease ambulance response times, emergency department wait times and surgery backlogs, along with recruiting more frontline workers, especially in primary care.
Shepherd said the UCP government did incredible damage to the health-care system throughout the COVID-19 pandemic by repeatedly making choices to act last, and act least, and pushed the health-care system and its workers to their limit.
He said a Freedom of Information request showed that in December 2022 just over 1,990 registered nursing shifts were unfilled at Alberta Health Services facilities, and by January unfilled shifts increased to nearly 2,700.
“We continue to have huge numbers of unfilled shifts in EMS, in nursing. On the front line we continue to see rural health-care sites that are closing and not able to operate because we do not have the staff we need.”