By Lethbridge Herald on March 11, 2020.
The NDP is calling on the Kenney government to immediately suspend job cuts and changes to front-line health care in Alberta to deal with the pandemic COVID-19 outbreak.
Opposition leader Rachel Notley, flanked by Opposition Finance Critic Shannon Phillips, was in Lethbridge on Wednesday to call for a moratorium on broad-based changes to Alberta’s health-care system introduced in the recent provincial budget which will cause “disruption and chaos” at a time when the province’s health system needs clarity and certainty as it ramps up to deal with increasing instances of COVID-19 in Alberta in the coming weeks and months.
“We are concerned about problems with respect to understaffing,” Notley said, “and not having people or additional staff ready to supplement the work those folks have. We also know, of course, there will be struggles with them having them quarantined should they become infected. So we are actually going to find pressures on our current staffing levels as a result of the virus itself.”
Notley said any disruptions to the health-care system at this critical time could lead to greater instances of outbreak and infection.
“This is not the time to be injecting instability and chaos, and a reduction in resources, into our health-care system. We must have the complete backs of all our front-line health-care providers. They should know their government and their province is behind them as they get ready to go through a very hardworking and focused phase in the work they do (due to COVID-19). We need to be investing in the additional supports that will be required in our health-care system. The fact of the matter is, in the last two months, we have been in the midst of the opposite of that under the leadership of this government.”
When asked if the NDP could be perceived as being opportunistic in the face of a crisis as they have called for such reverses all along, Notley stated the outbreak of COVID-19 merely reinforced what front-line health workers, physicians and service providers have been saying all along about the negative impacts by disruptions the Kenney government has brought to health care in the province by stretching resources too thin and imposing unilateral changes which affect how doctors and other medical professionals can deliver their care.
This current crisis has simply borne out what the province’s medical professionals have been saying; advice, she says, which has largely been ignored by the Kenney government to date.
“It was always the case that we disagreed, for a number of good reasons, with the strategy adopted by the UCP to subsidize their $4.7-billion corporate handout by cutting the health-care services that are available to Albertans,” confirmed Notley. “However, that does not, in any way, shape or form, negate the very clear situation we are in now, where there is not a single expert who does not acknowledge that there is going to be a significant amount of pressure put on our health-care system in the weeks and months to come.”
Notley also called on the province to take action to introduce emergency economic measures to offset the effects of the COVID-19 shock to the world economy combined with a devastating drop in oil prices in recent weeks, including stimulus spending, forming a dual-party committee to deal with the crisis, and by immediately reversing $4.7 billion in corporate tax cuts introduced in last fall’s budget.
And finally, she called on both the federal and provincial governments to take strenuous actions to protect workers who may have to self-quarantine as the possibilities of a broader outbreak grow, including suspension of employer demands for doctors’ notes when people decide to self-quarantine, expanded EI benefits for those who may face layoffs as the crisis potentially grows, and the setting up of an income replacement fund for those who are self-employed or unable to access EI benefits while in the midst of a quarantine.
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