April 18th, 2024

Health care ‘doomed’ with budget: Phillips


By Lethbridge Herald on March 1, 2024.

Alberta NDP Finance Critic and Lethbridge West MLA Shannon Phillips speaks to reporters about Budget 2024 Friday at her constituency office. Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman

Alejandra Pulido-Guzman – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – apulido@lethbridgeherald.com

Alberta NDP Finance Critic and Lethbridge West MLA Shannon Phillips shared her thoughts Friday on the provincial budget that was released Thursday and the impacts it will have on local healthcare and education among other areas. 

“Every single person in this province understands inflation, the only person in this province that does not understand inflation is Danielle Smith. This budget does not keep up with inflation for healthcare or education,” said Phillips. 

She added that the budget also fails to address the affordability crisis that Albertans have been facing as it proposes new fees, it looks forward to higher insurance costs, higher school fees and projects higher tuition costs for Albertans. 

“This is a budget that does not reflect Albertans priorities, I think the health care system is doomed with this budget,” said Phillips. 

She said it is obvious how much need there is in the Alberta healthcare system and this budget is not addressing those needs.

“We are seeing so many closures of emergency departments, we’re seeing limited hours throughout rural areas in particular, you’re seeing entire communities that have to drive two and three hours in order to have a baby or have simple procedures done,” said Phillips. 

She said because of this, she believes waiting times in emergency rooms will continue to increase, which can potentially mean frontline workers being run off their feet unable to meet people’s needs.

In a statement, president of the Alberta Medical Association Paul Parks says the health system remains under immense pressure, but he is pleased that Minister Adriana LaGrange has made two commitments with Budget 2024 in response. 

“First, she has agreed to implement a new funding model for the comprehensive, life-long care provided by family and rural physicians. Second, she will ensure that Alberta can compete with our neighbouring provinces when it comes to retaining and recruiting physicians and medical learners,” states Parks. 

He adds that Budget 2024 also provides more funding for the additional services that physicians are providing to more Albertans as our population continues to grow. 

“The Minister has given me her word that we will implement the Physician Comprehensive Care Model as quickly as possible. She went further with a commitment to ensuring that Alberta will once again be competitive with other provinces for retention and recruitment — and make family and rural medicine viable across the province,” states Parks. 

He also states that by the numbers, Budget 2024 has funding for primary care. Parks states there has been an increase to the Physician Services Budget that will offset some of the volume they have seen from population growth and add a partial funding top up for inflation.

“It does not catch up, but because we negotiated a rate agreement, this is less of an issue. Among line items in general, the specifics need to be worked out about where the money is going. We’ll be digging into that as we head into the busiest two-year period of our four-year agreement,” states Parks. 

 In terms of education, Phillips said both school divisions in Lethbridge got absolutely shafted by this budget and parents deserve better. She said they deserve classrooms that are designed for the 21st century and there are schools here in Lethbridge that do not have that. 

“We don’t have that in Galbraith, which is one of the oldest schools in the province, we know we don’t have that at Saint Francis here in the downtown in our Catholic system which I toured last spring, which is an ancient building in dire need of modernization,” said Phillips. 

She said those are the two most pressing needs among many others in this growing city. 

“It is clear to me that the UCP has ignored Lethbridge, they don’t care about us and Nathan Neudorf has done a very poor and weak job of advocating for our city,” said Phillips. 

She said if she would have been in charge of the budget, she would not have played politics the UCP government has clearly played when it comes to school projects. 

“I would have made sure that growing communities across the province get what they need, but what we saw in this budget is 82 per cent of the new school projects are in Calgary, that’s where the education minister lives, it’s no coincidence, they just did pure politics instead of doing what is right for the whole province,” said Phillips. 

In response to the Budget 2024, the Holy Spirit Catholic School Division says they will be better equipped to respond once they know how the money will be allocated in about seven to 10 days, while the Lethbridge School Division issued a statement where Christine Lee, the Division’s associate Superintendent, business and operations, says the picture will become clearer in a few weeks.

“Budget day is always an exciting day but for school divisions, the most important information we receive comes in the form of our funding profiles,” says Lee. “Those will be delivered sometime in March. Once we have had an opportunity analyze our funding profile, we will have a much better idea of what our budget looks like for next year.”

Board Chair Allison Purcell adds the board will also need time to analyze the numbers but there are several potential positives with the budget.

“We are encouraged to see the government is addressing enrolment growth and is committed to putting more teachers in our classrooms, along with increased learning supports for some of our most vulnerable students,” said Purcell, referring to the $1.2 billion the government is investing over the next three years to address record enrolment growth.

While is not clear how funds will be allocated within the schools divisions at the moment, it is clear that the University of Lethbridge is receiving $26 million in funding for a Rural Medical Teaching School and Phillips said there is no question this investment is welcomed. 

“There is no question that this project would not have moved forward, would not have had a commitment in the budget if New Democrats, if I had not pushed this government over the last five years of advocacy for public health care,” said Phillips. 

She said that even though this process will not yield results soon, she is in for the long haul. 

“It makes me feel good that a decade from now we will begin to address an issue that was authored in 2019 when the UCP went to war on doctors,” said Phillips. 

She said by the time the first few doctors graduate from the program we will have had a 15-year-long crisis in healthcare if nothing changes in this budget. 

“Today shows that nothing will change and at that point perhaps 15 years from now, perhaps even later than that, we will be graduating our first doctors into the system and that’s a good thing. I’m in it for the long haul, I want the best thing for this community,” said Phillips.

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Citi Zen

Yawn… more NDP rhetoric from Phillips. Go away, already! Òr suggest a reasonable solution.

buckwheat

Ah, the purveyor of perpetual doom and infinite outrage has appeared once again. Hyggen happy, University of Lethbridge happy, Day care operators are happy, Lethbridge School District is happy, University of Calgary is pleased with the medical program coming to the U of L. Shannon, not happy.

Southern Albertan

For us who have been on the health care front lines, and when, specifically, Lethbridge, had 400 acute care beds and thus, plenty of doctors (because they had + + access to hospital beds), folks did not wait long for surgery times or referrals to specialists, and also, had a family physician. So, we are still reeling from the brutal Klein era cutbacks which saw the removal of 200 acute care beds. As one of the prominent surgeons in Lethbridge said at the time, “Well, people have to decide what they want.” How much would it cost to make this right again? We all, have unsurprisingly known that the ultra right wing march toward private-for-profit health care in Alberta, and perhaps across the entire country, has been the purposeful dismantling of the public system by whatever means. It’s easy talking until, one or a loved one enters the health care system and expectations are not met, particularly if one is poor and not monied.
Just to also mention, as a retired RN, that the patient/nurse ratios being established in B.C. is a very progressive thing to do, not only with regard to attracting and retaining frontline health care professionals, but for better patient care as well. Good on them!

Last edited 1 month ago by Southern Albertan
zulu1

A responsible budget commented upon by an economic illiterate.

Southern Albertan


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