Tag: election

Health care top of mind in Alberta election campaign

CALGARY — It’s one of the key issues at the ballot box in the Alberta election, but the two main rivals vying to run the province’s sprawling health system can’t agree on the diagnosis, let alone the cure.

The provincial election is on Monday.

United Conservative Leader Danielle Smith says that on her watch as premier, surgical wait times have been cut and new rules have reduced ambulance bottlenecks at the doors of emergency wards.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley says Smith needs to put down the spreadsheet and take a look around: hourly wait times are in the double digits at emergency wards, including 11 hours at the Red Deer Regional Hospital in central Alberta this past weekend.

Both sides agree that there’s more work to do as Alberta’s health system, like others across Canada, faces worker shortages amid the aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Health care is a disaster and I don’t think that’s unique here. It’s across the country,” said Dr. Fredrykka Rinaldi, president of the Alberta Medical Association.

“There’s a shortage of health-care professionals … there’s about 650,000 Albertans without a family physician, which means they go to the ER, which is way more expensive.”

The parties, she said, must address the cause, not the symptoms.

The association, which represents doctors, came up with seven “pain points” facing the health-care system: primary care, human resources, the drug poisoning crisis, mental health, care of the elderly, rural health and Indigenous health.

Rinaldi, a family doctor in Medicine Hat, said there’s often no followup care after an emergency department visit. In addition, she said pediatric patients are waiting longer for mental health care and there are long wait lists for specialists and surgeries.

“We can blame COVID for part of this, but part of this is the chronic underfunding

Alberta election kicks off Day 2 with health-care finger-pointing

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley says health care has deteriorated badly under the United Conservatives, leaving as many as 800,000 Albertans without a family doctor.

Notley says if her party wins the May 29 election, it would spend $400 million to hire more health workers and another $350 million to create 40 teams of health specialists to provide more comprehensive primary care provincewide.

“If you need a doctor, you will get a doctor,” Notley told reporters at a campaign stop in Calgary on Tuesday.

“Over the past four years, our health care has been thrown into chaos by the UCP.

“They’ll tell you they fixed it, but Albertans aren’t feeling it and they’re not buying it.

“Our (emergency rooms) are still full, our ambulances are still delayed and many (patients) are waiting months and months for critical tests and surgeries.”

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Health care is expected to be a critical ballot box issue as Alberta, like many provinces, continues to struggle with health-care worker shortages and surgical backlogs after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Notley, however, said Alberta’s problems have been exacerbated by the UCP’s policy decisions, including picking wage fights with doctors and nurses during the pandemic and creating chaos by firing the board of Alberta Health Services and the chief medical officer of health.

The UCP government replaced the AHS board with a single administrator. UCP Leader Danielle Smith has said streamlined decision-making and adding more chartered surgical facilities has allowed the province to substantially reduce backlogs.

However, Notley said recent contracts signed by the province to pay for work at chartered surgical facilities – private facilities performing operations paid for by the public purse – raise concerns that key support staff are being siphoned off.

“We haven’t been able to see the full contracts, but we are

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