September 20th, 2019

Are we getting value for health-care dollars?


By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on August 22, 2019.

The Fraser Institute says an average Canadian family of four will pay $13,311 this year for government health care.

That is a 65.8 per cent increase in 22 years.

Additionally, you pay for dental, eye care, massage therapy and prescriptions, or pay a premium for private coverage for this.

It is important for Canadians and Albertans to understand what we are paying for health care, otherwise we don’t know if we are getting good value for our money.

The Alberta government has launched a review of health care and we should be looking at duplication and whether this is contributing to high costs.

For more than a decade Alberta Health Services has been in charge of the delivery of health care. Operating along with Covenant Health, to a lesser extent, as separate corporations with CEOs, vice-presidents, zone managers, directors, officers of health, etc., who are funded by taxpayers.

It is therefore interesting to see how many people are on the sunshine salary list for the ministry of health. There are zone managers, senior zone managers, several assistant deputy ministers, a deputy minister, an associate deputy minister, officers of health and so on. There are more than 100 people on this list who receive more than $115,000 in salary and up to $314,599 for a deputy minister. It would be interesting to know why we need upper management overseeing upper management at AHS where a CEO earns more than $600,000.

In Ontario, a long-awaited report was released looking into how a nurse in a seniors residence, Elizabeth Wettlaufer, could kill eight residents in a decade without management realizing. In fact, we already know from the trial that there were situations where management was persuaded to overlook issues with Wettlaufer.

The report was 1,400 pages long and included 91 recommendations but, according to media reports, Justice Eileen Gillese, who headed the inquiry, felt it was really nobody’s fault.

This boggles the mind because there are senior managers in charge at seniors residences. They are paid a higher wage for that responsibility.

Our society seems to have got into a comfort zone where we do not hold anyone accountable anymore. We no longer think it acceptable to cast blame and hold people responsible. We want to consider everyone winners so that nobody feels bad.

Gillese commented on the need to fix the system rather than the people who work in it. The trouble is the system does not take care of itself. People make the system work or not.

Seniors are living longer and have more complex health-care needs.

We do not need more regulations or new systems. We need people on the front lines who are adequately compensated for their work and there are some amazing people in these roles. The people in charge, many absolutely dedicated, who earn the big bucks have to be held accountable when things go wrong and, better yet, anticipate what could go wrong and make changes.

It does not have to cost more, this is more about a shift in thinking.

It does not take a study and then introducing another best practice.

We need people who are willing to take responsibility and be held accountable, and to reduce unnecessary levels of management.

To see a list of public servant salaries, visit https://www.alberta.ca/salary-and-severance-disclosure-table.aspx.

Editorial from The Medicine Hat News

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2 Responses to “Are we getting value for health-care dollars?”

  1. Southern Albertan says:

    There can always be improvements in every aspect of health care and even the Father of Universal Health Care, Tommy Douglas, stated that it would have to be rejigged as time went by.
    So even if changes are made in the management realm, it is important to remember, again, that the 3 biggest expenses for Alberta Health Services are: physician’s fees, rural health care, and pharmaceuticals. Unless these areas are addressed, we will not see the best results.
    I’m not sure the AB UCP will take on physician’s fees or the Big Pharma friends, but, I would imagine they will deal with rural health care by doing cuts. They will do this because they know that no matter what they do to rural health care, they will still get votes there.
    And, it is already clear they are taking on the front health care lines in the form of not honouring contracts and the expected wage cuts. This will result/already has resulted, in legal action which will tie things up for probably, quite a while.
    Also, not to forget, if management folks are phased out, they routinely get, I believe, a year’s pay settlement, at great expense. Some may have even negotiated 2 years pay if their position is eliminated, if they were smart. As a frontline health care professional, I have stayed far away from management…too much stress with having to keep upper management and the frontlines happy, to risky with having to take on increased responsibility and liability, workload too heavy with all of the policy requirements now…I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole.
    Just for interest….a family member of ours in The Netherlands had a hip replacement done in January of this year. From diagnosis to the actual surgery was a time span of 6 weeks, or less, plus, all of the arrangements for home care and rehab. But, they have a very dense population and an exquisite tax base. We, do not.
    As the saying goes, things will probably get worse before they get better, unfortunately. Expect health care cutbacks in most of the wrong places.

  2. biff says:

    so ab – a fine response. as with all things today, far too much waste…and we way over pay for pharm. the only way the latter changes is if we elect a govt that does not rely on big pharm money.


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