Original Published on Sep 28, 2022 at 08:01
By SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
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 health-care 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 health-care 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 work- which 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.