Tonight a small but passionate and knowledgeable crowd gathered in west Edmonton to speak with Official Opposition Leader David Swann, Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Raj Sherman and Lethbridge-East MLA Bridget Pastoor (two MDs and a nurse!) about the state of public health care in Alberta. The crowd featured patients and health care professionals alike, each with his or her own stories to tell. While the general theme was frustration and unrest, the group was quite sincere in their non-partisan search for solutions, confirming, I think, the general feeling that people just want health care that works and they don't care who fixes it.
|Official Opposition Communications Director Brian Leadbetter moderated the discussion while I shot photos. Well, not this one, obviously.|
The problem, of course, is that we live in a partisan political system, and from my point of view and that of other Alberta Liberals, the ruling Progressive Conservatives have mismanaged health care to such a degree that they've proven their inability to handle the job. We feel that a change in government is needed before the systemic mismanagement can be addressed.
Sherman and Swann - one an emergency room doctor, the other a former public health officer and family doctor - once again noted that the backlog in emergency room care can be laid at the feet of our province's critical lack of long-term care facilities and supports. In a nutshell, because there aren't enough long-term care spaces, people are being cared for in the acute care beds of our hospitals - at far greater expense to the public. And the acute care beds can't be used for patients that actually need acute care, which is why ER wait times can stretch on for hours or even days.
The MLAs also argued that the elimination of Alberta's health regions and their consolidation into Alberta Health Services has created a host of new inefficiencies in the system and done a good deal of damage to the morale of health care professionals across the board. Sylvia, seen here in the background, raised a good point about how that damage to morale seems to discourage people from voting. Dr. Sherman revealed that while he was in the Tory caucus, his colleagues actively discouraged him from telling people to vote, noting that low turnout helps the party in power. With cynical truths like these, it's no wonder that folks don't vote!
So where are the solutions? Well, Dr. Swann noted that the new Alberta Liberal health care policy will be unveiled shortly. I'm looking forward to seeing how Albertans react to the Official Opposition's proposals. Maybe they'll even provide a reason for people to head to the polls later this year or early next.
Wow, you could knock me over with a feather! Politicians conversing with health care folks and concerned citizens to find solutions to the crisis in health care? Bravo!
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