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Worsening health care and rising costs are among top concerns of central Albertans going to the polls

The provincial election is on Monday, May 29
The Alberta election is set for May 29. (Elections Alberta photo)

From inadequate health care to the high cost of living, a lot is weighing on the minds of central Albertans in the lead-up to Monday’s provincial election.

A perceived lack of integrity in the political process was among the other concerns cited during an informal Advocate survey on Thursday of people at a local mall. “I don’t care what political leaning you are, just be honest,” said a former small business owner from Red Deer.

But the most frequent issue that arose was the strained health care system.

Several local residents urged for the Red Deer hospital expansion to be expedited— or even a second hospital built. “Why do just a band-aid solution” with the promised renovation, questioned a retired resident.

Krista Bohlken of Condor witnessed “how unbelievably bad” the health system is when one of her relatives was diagnosed with breast cancer. “It took her months just to see an oncologist,” recalled Bohlken.

“The state of our health care system scares me and it makes me worry for everyone,” she added.

When this relative started chemotherapy she was told a drug that lessens the sickening side-effects of this treatment was not covered by the provincial drug plan, so would cost her $1,000, if she didn’t have private drug coverage.

“Nobody realizes this is happening unless they are affected,” said Bohlken.

Like many other central Albertans, she’s very concerned about the healthcare privatization talk this election, as well, as the long waits to see local doctors and for emergency treatment at hospitals.

Hussain Akbar, the owner of a local fitness centre, is also concerned, saying “health care is a mess.”

When patients show up at hospital emergency rooms to see signs saying the wait is six or seven hours, he believes many just go home and skip getting the treatment they need.

A local emergency room nurse, who declined to be named, sees the same drug-addicted people showing up repeatedly for emergency treatment at Red Deer hospital. She believes there is some merit in New Zealand’s mandatory drug treatment program for people who repeatedly show up at health care facilities with drug-related problems.

This nurse would like to see more retention efforts made to keep doctors, nurses and other frontline workers. And she believes health care dollars should be better managed.

One Innisfail resident feels lucky that she and her husband both have family doctors when so many Central Albertans are going without. If there were more doctors accepting new patients, fewer people would be lining up at hospital emergency rooms or at walk-in clinics, she said.

The high cost of living was another growing concern. Laura, a retired local woman, who would only give her first name, said political leaders should be striving to bring costs down for Albertans.

Bohlken said she gets by on her disability pension only because she doesn’t have a mortage. She doesn’t know how others manage.

“Life has gotten too expensive,” agreed Akbar — but he doesn’t want empty promises of relief from politicians who have no intention of post-election follow-through.

“Often political leaders will “deviate from their promises for what they think are reasonable excuses,” but this lets down the electorate and loses people’s trust, Akbar added.

Fred, a former small business owner, who declined to give his last name, said his biggest concern this election is a lack of integrity in certain politicians. “They lie,” he added.

He surmises some of the political polarization might dissipate if only people were more honest with each other instead of ideological.

He and his wife Lila want more provincial attention paid to climate change. With the massive number of wildfires that ignited during this spring’s abnormal heatwave, “it should be our No. 1 concern because you can’t have an economy if you don’t have a planet,” said Lila.

Alan, a retired local resident, feels more effort should be made to start transitioning Alberta’s economy away from fossil fuels to alternatives. The future lies in hydrogen and electricity, he said. “We should be at the forefront of that,” by expanding our electrical grid.

Lana Michelin

About the Author: Lana Michelin

Lana Michelin has been a reporter for the Red Deer Advocate since moving to the city in 1991.
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