Prairie Post (East Edition)

Notley criticizes UCP for ‘chasing doctors’ away in visit to Medicine Hat

- By Samantha Johnson

NDP leader Rachel Notley spoke outside Medicine Hat Regional Hospital Tuesday about the state of health care in Alberta, touching on the dozens of rural hospitals that have partially closed, Albertans who don't have access to a family doctor, and the lack of continuity of care.

“We know that here there are currently no physicians accepting new patients in Medicine Hat,” stated Notley. “The total number of physicians in this city has dropped by 20 per cent over the past two years. We understand there is a shortage of doctors right across the country, but only in Alberta has the provincial government been so openly hostile and so intent on chasing doctors and other health-care profession­als out of their clinics.”

Notley says the NDP wants to work with communitie­s and city councils to foster an environmen­t that encourages physician retention, adding they feel it is vital to re-establish a relationsh­ip between the government and all health-care workers, and to restore stability to the healthcare system. Notley stressed the push for privatizat­ion needs to end and the system must be appropriat­ely funded.

If elected as premier in the election next year, Notley says she will attempt to reverse as many of the privatizat­ion contracts as possible.

“The plans they (UCP) have made with respect to privatizat­ion is going to have a negative impact on our overall healthcare system. I suspect we would have some capacity to reverse those contracts depending on how far along they are. We would do everything we can to stop those contracts and we would not move forward with privatizat­ion.”

Not having enough front-line healthcare workers is currently a primary issue, and Notley said it is a recipe for disaster to set up a private model in the middle of a public one.

Notley added the privatizat­ion of lab services is one of the more complicate­d matters. The NDP planned to build a public lab and the ground was being broken when the UCP was elected and work stopped, putting thousands out of workwhich Notley said was a tremendous loss to the province.

The problem with privatizin­g labs, Notley says, is when the contracts come up for renegotiat­ion, the price will go up and the testing capacity down.

“We don't know the current contract or how far along it is, or the path to undoing the damage,” said Notley. “We would certainly make that a focus to try to do as much as we can in a cost-effective way because testing and diagnostic­s is a critical part of our health-care system,” said Notley.

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