Health care cuts eyed

EDMONTON — Alberta’s health authority is looking to cut another three per cent from its budget as it struggles to get a billion-dollar deficit under control.

EDMONTON — Alberta’s health authority is looking to cut another three per cent from its budget as it struggles to get a billion-dollar deficit under control.

Stephen Duckett, the CEO of Alberta Health Services, says they want to find $315 million in annualized savings from its $11-billion budget.

Duckett says they’ll work with unions on early retirement plans, along with looking for cost cuts from providers and reducing administrative duplication.

“We’re still running a deficit, so it’s important to get started and move quickly,” Duckett says. “But it’s a multi-year process, and the people with the best ideas are usually the people on the front lines.”

The cuts are the second phase of a four-step plan to balance the budget in about three to four years.

In Phase 1, Duckett says about $650 million in savings were found by procurement savings, including areas like knee and hip replacements.

“If we don’t do it now, the problems will get worse,” he says.

“If you’re following the economy or following health care anywhere in the world, you know Alberta is not unique.”

The president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees says the plan is not a good prescription for putting patients first.

“This approach contrasts poorly with the one taken by the government at Finance Minister Iris Evans’ news conference this morning, in which she said Premier Ed Stelmach has made it very clear he doesn’t want to see a reduction in staff,” says Doug Knight.

“It is essential for the Alberta government to maintain the public services that Albertans count on every day through the recession, and this includes full public health care.”

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