Lead­er­ship hope­fuls prom­ise health re­form

Medicine Hat News - - FRONT PAGE -

ED­MON­TON Two of the lead­er­ship can­di­dates for Al­berta’s United Con­ser­va­tives say they will pur­sue more pri­vate-care op­tions to fix a bro­ken health­care sys­tem.

Ja­son Ken­ney says his fa­ther died wait­ing for care and that ac­cess to a long wait­ing list is not ac­cess to care.

“My fa­ther, seven years ago, waited for 15 hours sit­ting in a chair in an emer­gency ward wait­ing for some­body to see him and died that day, ef­fec­tively with­out care,” Ken­ney told about 500 peo­ple at lead­er­ship de­bate Thurs­day.

“My dad, if he was picked up off a side­walk as a heroin ad­dict, would have been treated faster at a county hos­pi­tal in Detroit than he was here in Cal­gary.

“We have bril­liant and of­ten heroic front-line work­ers but the sys­tem ... sim­ply isn’t work­ing.”

All four can­di­dates said re­struc­tur­ing is vi­tal for a sys­tem that is spend­ing $21.5 bil­lion a year but is not de­liv­er­ing the out­comes.

Ken­ney and can­di­date Doug Sch­weitzer said sim­pler sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures, such as hip and knee re­place­ments, can be ef­fec­tively de­liv­ered for less money un­der the pub­lic-health um­brella.

“We need to get back to de­cen­tral­ized de­ci­sion-mak­ing in Al­berta, and we also have to get back to in­no­vat­ing,” said Sch­weitzer. “So many (mi­nor surg­eries) can be pro­vided bet­ter, faster, cheaper. If the pri­vate op­tion is there, we need to take ad­van­tage of it and use it.”

Can­di­date Brian Jean re­counted how his adult son died amid con­fu­sion and prob­lems in the health sys­tem.

He said a whole­sale re­or­ga­ni­za­tion is needed to re­duce the lev­els of man­age­ment and im­prove ser­vice.

“There are too many lay­ers of man­agers in the (health sys­tem). We have one man­ager for al­most five em­ploy­ees,” said Jean, adding the prov­ince needs to re­or­ga­nize pur­chases and con­sult­ing fees and fix tech­nol­ogy.

“There’s over a thou­sand dif­fer­ent soft­ware sys­tems and none of them speak to each other. How can you ex­pect the doc­tor in one area of the prov­ince to be able to talk to a hos­pi­tal or a spe­cial­ist when they can’t even talk to each other through soft­ware?”

Jeff Call­away said a re­or­ga­ni­za­tion is crit­i­cal for a sys­tem that has be­come politi­cized and doesn’t al­ways fo­cus on out­comes.

“We’ve got a frag­mented struc­ture, we’ve got a lack of in­te­gra­tion at the physi­cian and the ser­vice level, and we’ve got a lack of shar­ing and use of clin­i­cal info,” said Call­away.

He said the au­di­tor gen­eral has sug­gested vi­able so­lu­tions in the past.

“We ac­tu­ally have the an­swers. The thing is we just need the po­lit­i­cal for­ti­tude and strength to ac­tu­ally fol­low through,” he said.

Asked later by re­porters, both Call­away and Jean said they would look at ex­panded pri­vate care op­tions if it’s cost ef­fec­tive and im­proves the sys­tem.

The can­di­dates also sparred over labour re­la­tions, in­clud­ing Al­berta’s min­i­mum wage.

The wage rises to $13.60 on Oct. 1 from $12.20 an hour, then to $15 in the fall of 2018.

All can­di­dates say busi­ness lead­ers are telling them $15 is not sus­tain­able, and that it will harm the econ­omy be­cause fewer peo­ple will be hired.

Three of them would look to hold it at $15 or, in the case of Jean, seek to lower it for some in­dus­tries or age groups to spur job growth.

Only Sch­weitzer promised to roll it back to the cur­rent $12.20 level to bring back thou­sands of jobs.

“The min­i­mum wage has to be re-set. Has to be,” he said.

Ken­ney dis­agreed, telling Sch­weitzer: “Promis­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple that you are go­ing to cut their wages is not the win­ning for­mula for an elec­tion.”

This was the sec­ond of five de­bates among the lead­ers.

The party will pick a new leader on a pref­er­en­tial bal­lot on Oct. 28.

Doug Sch­weitzer

Jeff Call­away

Brian Jean

Ja­son Ken­ney

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