Health-care competition essential

Your recent article entitled Re-inventing Alberta Health Services was written by Robert McGarvey, who reportedly is an economic historian, whatever that is. With all due respect, if his comments were intended to uncover new insights into delivering affordable health care in Alberta, it didn’t.

Your recent article entitled Re-inventing Alberta Health Services was written by Robert McGarvey, who reportedly is an economic historian, whatever that is. With all due respect, if his comments were intended to uncover new insights into delivering affordable health care in Alberta, it didn’t.

In my opinion, the key problem with Alberta health care is not the quality or delivery but in the cost. It eats up half of all government expenses and is rising dramatically. It’s unaffordable. We must get that through our heads!

Lets face it: monopolies, in any business, will eventually become high-cost and inefficient. It ought to be obvious by now why Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands have more efficient health care for their populations than does Alberta. These three countries are at the top of a list of universal health-care systems like ours, but with private, parallel options. Monopolies are dangerous, competition is healthy and causes monopolies to improve or die. So there it is — the obvious solution to ballooning health care costs in Alberta.

Why has it not been implemented? The simple answer is that our provincial government has no interest in improving our health-care system. For their selfish purposes, it is good enough, as it is for the fat and happy doctors and nurses.

So what is the selfish purpose of our provincial government? To use health care as a political football to get elected, and do it over and over until, maybe someday, the voting public will wise up to their chicanery.

Why have we not seen through this hypocrisy? Because this government are masters of deception, and us being proud Albertans, we personally fear the possibility of any other party getting their eager claws on our fat public purse. It really is humbling (and mind-boggling) that for at least the last decade we have been duped by our government (me also). They have been deceiving their loyal voters, and they will do it over and over again. And why not? It’s just pork-barrel politics, it’s legal, it’s cool and it works every time.

Do you want an egregious example of their crazy politics? Do you remember Stephen Duckett (the former head of Alberta Health Services)?

Duckett was a brilliant, super-qualified administrator and analyst. He was brought from Australia to uncover inefficiencies in our health system and recommend changes. He began to do just that. With no loyalties holding him hostage, he spoke honestly and openly.

Unfortunately his findings would not reflect well on our provincial government, so his mandate was immediately changed. In fact, he had to be silenced. He was. Do you remember how the government managed to convince us that Duckett was some kind of an idiot with a cookie problem? It was an absolute lie, but we believed it. He was belittled and jettisoned.

Does Alberta Health Services actually know how to improve health care and make it affordable? I’m sure they do, but to mess with it would mean public blame and cost them their jobs. The health minister has absolute control over Alberta Health Services. They are a handy whipping boy for this government.

I guess that as adult voters we must finally realize that for four decades our monopoly Progressive Conservative government has been slowly developing into the entitlement monster it is today — a slick-talking political machine that has mastered the art of political subterfuge. They won the voters trust repeatedly. They have played us as dupes repeatedly. They have used and abused Alberta Health Services repeatedly. They win elections repeatedly.

Masterfully, they have used our fear of “a change in government” as a primary means to win elections repeatedly. Indeed, our PC government is an international sensation — who in all the world can boast of 40 consecutive years in power?

But wait a minute! Do we as voters carry some responsibility for a stagnated health-care system? Is the ballooning cost solely the fault of the PC government? No. They are only doing what Albertans want. Do you know the mayor of every town and city in Alberta wants more health facilities and services established in their particular municipality. Why? Because health initiatives are vote-getters and attract people and businesses to their area. So why not keep the pressure on our government to spend more? Don’t they hold the strings to our fat public purse?

We Albertans love to believe in the Alberta Advantage which equates to something like this: a nurses union (the highest paid in Canada) which is fat and happy, a doctors union (AMA) which is fat and happy. (Don’t even think of calling them after-hours.) The AMA ridicules every suggestion for change, and they always, always, win. We revere our doctors. They can do no wrong!

It’s a merry-go-round! So maybe we ought to vote for a party that has the courage to say no to voters. Where is such a party? (They wouldn’t last five minutes!)

If the PC government had the courage to drop the “Let’s get elected again” mentality, and passed the torch to Alberta Health Services, who are dedicated health-care administrators (politicians know zero about health care) we would see huge improvements. Indeed, we would see the true Alberta Advantage. Private competition to improve a stagnated mess, and even more important than that, we would see funding based on outcomes, not the funding joke that is now in place.

Jim Swan

Red Deer

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