People have to wonder why Premier Ed Stelmach is trying so hard to defeat his own government, says a Red Deer man who helped the NDP create its new report on health care.
Floyd Van Slyke was among a group of about 45 people, including social work, nursing and political science students, gathered at Red Deer College on Tuesday evening to hear NDP leader Brian Mason give his report, titled Alberta Health Care: What People Want.
Red Deer is one of seven cities in which the NDP visited people to seek input for the 32-page report. Mason is touring those cities again to present the report, which will be given to MLAs when the new session of the Legislature opens on Thursday.
“The things we advocate will save money,” said Mason.
Albertans want four things from the health-care system, he said: they want their care to be of good quality, they want it accessible, they want it to be affordable and they want treatment in a timely manner.
Van Slyke, a former member of the Central Alberta Council on Aging, was among the group that participated.
After hearing Mason discuss the report and its conclusions on Tuesday, he said it has become apparent that the premier is bowing to pressure from international corporations that want to reap financial rewards from Alberta’s health-care system, including privatization of elder care.
Mason spoke about “misleading language” that has appeared in government statements and discussions about health care since the 2008 provincial election, Stelmach’s first as leader.
For example, when Stelmach’s government says it wants health-care professionals working to their full potential, that actually means licensed practical nurses will take over responsibilities that had been performed by registered nurses, said Mason.
While there was a severe shortage of RNs a few months ago, nursing students are now being told that there will be no jobs available for them in Alberta, he said.
One suggestion made during the discussions was creation of a planning secretariat to work with post-secondary schools and professional associations. The secretariat would ensure that the number of people graduating from various programs actually meets the system’s needs.
“We need to do better. It’s not acceptable that you graduate hundreds of nurses at great public expense and have them make a major commitment to their lives and then tell them that we’ve changed our minds, there are no jobs,” said Mason.
Severe problems developed after the 2008 election, when it became quite apparent that, if Stelmach’s government had a health-care plan, it was a closely guarded secret, he said.
Mason also touched on the impact of closing acute care beds and shifting long-term care beds to assisted living programs operated by private corporations.
Bed closures have created unacceptably long waits in emergency centres because hospitals have run out of room to put people.
Assisted living comes with extra costs that seniors and their families have to cover on their own, above the cost of accommodation, said Mason. His examples include $65 a month for four loads of laundry, $100 a month for help bathing, $300 a month for help getting to meals and $175 a month for people on oxygen.
Pharmaceutical and insurance companies will continue to pressure the province for a health care system that improves their profit margins, said Mason. Premier Stelmach has already backed down on some proposals, but privatized health care will always be waiting in the wings as long as PCs and Liberals are willing to accept donations from the companies that stand to profit from such a system, said Mason.
A publicly-owned and operated health-care system would actually work better and cost less, he said.