By Jensen, Randy on September 11, 2020.
The Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs welcomed Friends of Medicare executive director Sandra Azocar for a special presentation on the state of public health care in Alberta. In a word, said Azocar, under the UCP government that state is “crisis.”
Taking aim at the MacKinnon blue ribbon panel, and particularly the Ernst and Young report commissioned by the UCP to justify its changes to nine separate pieces of public health-care legislation under the omnibus Bill 30, Azocar said “this report basically served to provide an ideological fodder for this government to start the process of privatizing our health-care system by contracting out and reducing health-care services available to Albertans. Their recommendations outlined in this report ultimately had the potential to turn over resources, health-care dollars and staff to private companies that will be subsidized by public health-care dollars rather than building up the solid foundation we have in our health care.”
She gave numerous examples of how the UCP has moved forward on this through, to her mind, disturbing legislative changes, its professed desire to have 30 per cent of surgeries performed at private surgery facilities in the future, its recent announcement it would be using public dollars to create more senior-care spaces with private providers, and its ongoing dispute with the Alberta Medical Association.
The Kenney government has often said allowing more private companies to deliver public health-care services will not impact ordinary Albertans, because the bill, at the end of the day, will still be sent to the government rather than the individual.
Azocar acknowledged there may be some who might then say it is no big deal to invite these companies into our health-care system. However, she said, the battle for public health care is not about the expediency of the moment: it is about ensuring equal access to health care for all going forward.
“That is the narrative the government is using to sell the contracting out of surgical facilities,” she confirmed. “In a way when we are sick, and we want the service and need the service, you’re right – it doesn’t matter where you go.
“However, if we think outside of that immediacy to get the help we also have to think long term when it comes to health care. And we need to think about what kind of system we are helping to create that ultimately could have the potential to turn into a for-profit system where I, or somebody else who has more money than I, wants to get in quicker. It opens up the possibilities of queue-jumping. It opens up the possibility of an inequity that is created when we introduce profit and the medical entrepreneur model into this situation.”
Azocar said Albertans must speak up for public health care and let the government know their public dollars should be spent on public health care rather than on subsidizing for-profit companies.
“I don’t blame anybody who needs the help, and who wants it now,” she said, “but what we should be focusing on is not bringing in private solutions. Rather, we should be focusing on expanding our capacity within our public system so people don’t have to wait. So people don’t have to be in a situation where they have to pay out of pocket for any type of health care.”
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