Friday, March 11, 2011

Opposition Parties Present United Front on Health Care



Brian Mason, Sue Huff, David Swann, Raj Sherman and Danielle Smith. Photo by Andrew Fisher.
In a huge first for Alberta politics, leaders of the Alberta Liberals, NDP, Wildrose Alliance and the Alberta Party, as well as Independent MLA Dr. Raj Sherman, are calling for a full public inquiry to
"investigate whether or not health care staff and professionals were subject to intimidation, including retribution, professional or employment discipline or the threat thereof, or attacks on their character or professional reputations, in order to prevent them from speaking about issues which affect patient care or the effective delivery of health care in Alberta."
Here are the remarks Alberta Liberal Leader Dr. David Swann delivered this morning at an unprecedented all-opposition party news conference in reaction to new allegations that the provincial government punishes doctors who speak out about problems in health care.

I stand before you at a turning point in Alberta politics. The government duly elected by the people of Alberta has broken a sacred public trust. Recent developments show that Tory mismanagement of our public health care system runs deeper than most Albertans could ever have imagined.

Under unrelenting pressure from all opposition parties, the Premier has capitulated. He’ll allow the Health Quality Council of Alberta to carry out an investigation of cancer care and ER wait times.

That’s no longer good enough. Given the severity of the damning allegations coming forward late yesterday, the investigation proposed by the Premier is not enough on its own to restore public confidence in health care.

Because of the shadow cast over this government by recent developments, Albertans have no reason to trust this Tory government. There’s every reason to believe they’ll try to use the HQCA investigation to cover up their own incompetence.

If this sounds cynical, it’s because the Tories have given us every reason to be distrustful. The depth of their incompetence and dishonesty has grown so great that the Tories have brought together all opposition parties. The need is that great.

Today we speak with one powerful voice, on behalf of all Albertans who care about public health care and financial accountability.

We now demand, on behalf of the people of Alberta, a fully independent public inquiry, one completely free of government interference, control or intimidation.

Ideally, the inquiry we propose would have these features:

• Investigate whether or not health care staff and professionals were subject to intimidation, including retribution, professional or employment discipline or the threat thereof, or attacks on their character or professional reputations, in order to prevent them from speaking about issues which affect patient care or the effective delivery of health care in Alberta

• An inquiry open to the media and the public, transparent and overseen by a current or former Justice of the Crown, with total discretion as to who is called to testify and full access to any documents deemed relevant by the Justice
• A full and open public inquiry to investigate whether the Alberta government, Alberta Health Services or former regional health authorities paid any form of compensation to any person in return for their silence on the quality of health care, or lack thereof, for Alberta patients
• All witnesses relieved of any obligations pursuant to confidential and non-disclosure provisions for the purpose of giving evidence

Premier Stelmach, if you truly care about your legacy, if you really care about public health care and the lives and health of the people you lead, call this inquiry immediately. If your party has nothing to hide, you’ll come clean about your mismanagement of public health care and give our health professionals the tools they need to prevent more tragedies.

To the people of Alberta, I say to you now that we will not allow this government to escape the consequences of its mismanagement and possible corruption. We will not allow our doctors and nurses to be threatened for telling the truth. We will not allow public health care to be destroyed by incompetence and possible corruption. We will act on behalf of every Albertan who has suffered or lost a loved one needlessly.

That is our duty to you, and we will carry it out.

***

What a fascinating time to be working for the Official Opposition. Unfortunately I was stuck behind my keyboard as all this was going down, so I couldn't be at the news conference in person. They also serve who sit and type, I suppose.

Thanks my own personal experiences in the emergency room over the past couple of years, combined with everything I've seen and heard working at the Legislature, there's no question in my mind that this inquiry is necessary. We can't fix the system until we know the whole, unvarnished truth behind the surgery delays and long ER wait times. Will the Premier allow a truly independent and transparent public inquiry to go forward? I certainly hope so. It's no exaggeration at all to say that lives are at stake.

No matter what happens, I'm very proud that Alberta's opposition parties, despite striking ideological differences, came together at this important moment, proving that public health care is important to all of us. Well done, everyone.

Here's the Official Opposition release on today's event.

1 comment:

susan_rn92 said...

What can I say but, "wow." Just this month, staff who wrote to their manager and CEO about problems with overcrowding in a Fraser Valley hospital here in BC got reprimanded. Good luck Alberta!