Put care before cookies

Does Stephen Duckett really believe that satisfying his craving for a cookie is more important than responding to Albertans’ concerns about the delivery of health care?



Does Stephen Duckett really believe that satisfying his craving for a cookie is more important than responding to Albertans’ concerns about the delivery of health care?

Has the chief executive officer of Alberta Health Services become so besieged by public and media questions about emergency department delays that he wants to duck reporters at any cost — even to the point that he is willing to make a mockery of himself, the health delivery system he represents and the people whose job it is to ask questions?

Of course not, but his performance last week certainly helped bring the crisis in health delivery into focus.

Duckett is charged with a job that is of critical importance to Albertans.

Yet on Friday, Duckett declined to answer questions as he left talks on how to reduce wait times in emergency rooms across Alberta. He was eating a cookie and despite repeated — and polite — entreaties to answer questions from reporters, he kept walking, munching and refusing.

Reporters offered to wait until he was done eating. He kept walking, eating and refusing.

Later on Friday, Duckett posted a blog on the Alberta Health Services website that detailed the nature of the talks he had earlier attended — and refused to talk to the press about. He offered the information and links necessary to understand the protocols established at the talks to address the wait time problem.

He even made reference to the fundamental flaws in Alberta’s health system: staffing and bed issues.

In short, Duckett answered the questions that were posed to him earlier, when the cookie got in the way.

He made it clear that the hastily arranged summit to address the health-care crisis had made progress; that Alberta Health Services had heard the growing chorus of complaints — professional, public and political — and was prepared to deal with those complaints.

The next day, he offered a blog apology over the cookie incident — after it went viral on the Internet.

The apology said that a decision had been made during the summit to have a health professional brief the media about the outcome. In addition, he said, “However, it has been my practice that because I am not an elected official, I do not respond to comments from elected officials. I should have stopped to make all this clear.”

He was no doubt referring to concerns raised earlier in the week by then-Conservative MLA Raj Sherman, himself an emergency room doctor. Sherman, the parliamentary assistant to Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky, laid blame for the horrendous emergency department wait times across the province at the feet of Alberta Health Services and his political confederates, including Premier Ed Stelmach. (Sherman was suspended from caucus on Monday.)

There is certainly enough blame in this crisis in care to go around.

Conservative government decisions dating back to Ralph Klein mean the province has failed to keep pace with the health-care needs of Albertans, both in the provision of beds and the staff to care for the ill, injured and infirm.

That’s not Duckett’s doing, but it is his job to fix it — with support and direction from his political masters. Sometimes that direction comes in the form of harsh criticism, as it did from Sherman. Sherman, like most Albertans, is frustrated with delivery of care. He, like many Albertans, has first-hand experience: his critically ill father languished in an Edmonton emergency room recently. It is the kind of situation that has Albertans angered and distrustful.

The emergency care crisis is appalling and must be permanently fixed. Sherman helped to crystallize the issue by saying that he is “fed up” with the system’s failures.

Duckett needs to understand that Albertans share Sherman’s despair and want their health system fixed quickly and thoroughly.

And the political masters who direct Duckett need to understand that he and the Alberta Health Services superboard that this government appointed to help manage the system can’t get the job done without the necessary tools — the cash and commitment that only elected leaders can supply.

And when the job gets done and health care is once again efficient, caring and inclusive, Duckett can enjoy his cookies.

John Stewart is the Advocate’s managing editor.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer County's municipal planning commission gave approval for a new directional sign for a business located near Elnora.
(Image from Red Deer County)
Red Deer County garden centre and winery gets sign approved

Delidais Estate Winery and DA Gardens is located near Elnora

(Advocate file photo)
Red Deer County approves home-based hair salon

Salon would be located in rural residential area just west of Innisfail

A rodeo south of Bowden drew a huge crowd on May 1 and 2, 2021. (Photo courtesy Mom's Diner's Facebook page)
‘No More Lockdowns’ rodeo rally organizers charged under Public Health Act

RCMP issued a notice to appear in court for the organizers of… Continue reading

Red Deer city council has no immediate plans to discuss increasing penalties for non-compliance with the municipal mask-wearing bylaw. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Red Deer not following Calgary’s example to hike penalties for COVID-19 rule-breakers

Mayor says an update on complaince complaints will soon be provided

A vial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. Alberta says it won’t give out more first doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for the time being.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Alberta to stop giving first doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot as supply dwindles

OTTAWA — Alberta says it won’t give out more first doses of… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Here is a list of latest COVID-19 restrictions in effect in Alberta

New mandatory health restrictions are now in effect in Alberta. Additional restrictions… Continue reading

Heidi Illingworth, federal ombudsman for victims of crime, takes part in an interview at her office in Ottawa on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Watchdog worries federal benefit for parents of missing, murdered kids going unused

OTTAWA — The federal ombudsman for victims of crime says she remains… Continue reading

Labour Minister Harry Bains arrives at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, June 26, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
British Columbia to give workers three days of paid sick leave for COVID-19

VICTORIA — British Columbia will give all workers up to three days… Continue reading

Minister of Health Patty Hajdu responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Coalition says users were shut out of drug decriminalization proposal, demands redo

Advocates are calling on the federal government and the City of Vancouver… Continue reading

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe waits in line at a COVID-19 vaccination drive-thru clinic at Evraz Place in Regina on Thursday, April 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor
Other provinces looking at Saskatchewan’s plan to tie COVID-19 vaccines to reopening

CALGARY — Neighbouring provinces are eyeing Saskatchewan’s plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions… Continue reading

This undated photo provided by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department shows a group of bighorn sheep in North Dakota. Alberta’s environment department has known for years that toxins from old coal mines are contaminating populations of the province’s official animal, the bighorn sheep. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Bihrle/North Dakota Game and Fish Department via AP, File
Alberta government knew bighorn sheep contaminated with coal mine selenium: scientist

EDMONTON — Alberta’s environment department has known for years that toxins from… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a news conference at Rideau cottage in Ottawa, on Friday, March 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Trudeau rejects Alberta cabinet minister accusation he wants COVID health disaster

EDMONTON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is rejecting an accusation from Alberta’s… Continue reading

In this June 8, 2017, file photo, fresh nuts, bolts and fittings are ready to be added to the east leg of the pipeline near St. Ignace, Mich., as Enbridge prepares to test the east and west sides of the Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac in Mackinaw City, Mich. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Dale G Young/Detroit News via AP, File
On eve of deadline, Canada makes case in court to keep Line 5 pipeline running

WASHINGTON — The federal government is stepping up its fight with Michigan… Continue reading

Denis Shapovalov, of Canada, tosses the ball for a serve to Ilya Ivashka, of Belarus, during the Miami Open tennis tournament Saturday, March 27, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Wilfredo Lee
Canadian Denis Shapovalov books spot in second round of Italian Open

Shapovalov to face world Stefano Travaglia, of Italy

Most Read