Dozens of concerned Albertans are gathering on The People’s Bus, chartered by Friends of Medicare and Public Interest Alberta. The bus will be travelling from Edmonton to Calgary, making a stop in Red Deer, to canvass the constituency of the Minister of Health, Tyler Shandro. We are concerned about the government's attacks on health and seniors' care.
Health care job losses: Despite promising there would be no front-line job loss, on Black Friday, Albertans learned of the impending loss of well over 5,100 front-line health care jobs and another 2,500 public sector jobs, via the release of letters addressed to union officials from Alberta Health Services and the Government of Alberta. United Nurses of Alberta estimates the loss of 750 registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses alone over the next three years. More job losses are anticipated following the the government’s recent review of Alberta Health Services (AHS). These announcements came alongside notice that AHS will be considering future contracting out initiatives, and the privatization of emergency, non-emergency and hospital transfer ambulance services.
- Albertans removed from the Seniors’ Drug Benefit Program: Beginning in March, dependents under 65 will no longer be covered by the Seniors’ Drug Benefit Program. The 46,000 Albertans losing their eligibility have been directed by the Health Minister to purchase private insurance, or to access other public plans, like the Non-Group Program through Blue Cross. But that plan has monthly premiums of $63.50, or $118 for a family. In Alberta, 1 in 5 households cannot afford their medications, this change will only add to the inequity of access to prescription drugs, shifting more costs onto seniors’ and their families. At the same time, the premier has said that he would opt Alberta out of a national pharmacare plan, despite estimates that it would save $9 billion for employers and $ $7.1 billion for households across Canada.
- Seniors’ Care Privatization: The recent AHS review recommends increasing the presence of private operators in long term care for seniors, including privatizing publicly-owned organizations Capital Care and Carewest. Offloading the operation of our public services like seniors’ care onto private corporations has been shown to result in less accountability, less transparency, and poorer quality of care compared to publicly owned and delivered facilities. Our health care dollars will be spent less efficiently, since the primary responsibility of a for-profit corporation is to ensure return on investment for its shareholders, rather than providing the best care to seniors. Every dollar that private corporations take in profit is a dollar that isn’t being spent on care.
- Surgical Services Privatization: Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced that the government’s plan to reduce surgical wait times in Alberta is through privatization. He introduced the Alberta Surgical Wait-Times Initiative which was modeled after the Saskatchewan Surgical Initiative. Wait times were reduced in Saskatchewan when the initiative was first introduced, but stopped once government funding slowed, and now, wait times in Saskatchewan are longer than Alberta’s for many surgeries. The Health Minister has not explained the lessons that this government is taking from the Saskatchewan intitiative’s failure, or how he plans to avoid the same thing happening in Alberta. In addition, the announcement provided no monetary figures, no timelines, and no details, but made it clear that they would be increasing contracts to Non-Hospital Surgical Facilities, providing public funding to private practitioners.
Join us in contacting Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health, to let him know Albertans deserve quality health care!