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by Colin Smith
Improving healthcare for Albertans will require more localized decision-making and patient-centred care.
That is something all the candidates seeking election in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock can agree on.
Morinville News recently asked the three candidates for their views on how to improve the healthcare system, as well as what approach they think should be taken to services, benefits and programs for the province’s growing population of seniors.
Wildrose candidate Glenn van Dijken said a government formed by his party would return to a structure of more local authority and sit down with doctors and nurses to create a patient-centered health care model.
“The morale of our workers will improve when they begin to implement local solutions that bring positive and timely results for their patients,” he said. “I trust them to look after the interests of patients.”
Other policies include development of metrics and incentives to drive competitive innovation at the front lines and a secure publicly accessible patient health care portal through which patients can access their own health care records, referrals, appointments, billing fees and other information.
According to Progressive Conservative Maureen Kubinec, her party would focus on regional decision-making in healthcare by establishing eight to 10 operational districts aligned with local advisory councils to give the community a say on how their health care is delivered.
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Also critical is getting get better value for the amount of tax money spent on healthcare, she said.
“We will find efficiencies in administration and trim the bureaucracy so that dollars can be dedicated to frontline services,” she said. “At the same time, we will find ways to improve the quality and performance of our health system.”
Building a healthcare system that focuses on the needs of patients is a major priority for the New Democrats, indicated party candidate Tristan Turner.
“We will fill nearly 600,000 square feet of currently unused hospital space so that we can offer the care that Alberta needs, and reduce wait times for emergency rooms and surgeries across the province,” he stated.
“We will also commit to improving the quality of care and reduce wait times for critical surgeries in Alberta’s hospitals by reversing the hundreds of millions of dollars cut from our health care system, and focus on front line services and care.”
Other measures include reviewing the largest hospitals to improve efficiencies and costs through acute care hospital benchmarking and improving safety standards and quality of care in health facilities by strengthening the system to monitor, audit and ensure compliance. Programs to support the mental health needs of children will be expanded.
Increased home care funding is one avenue his party would take to help fragile seniors spend their final days with comfort and dignity, said van Dijken.
“A Wildrose government would invest an additional $50 million dollars in home care and annually increase homecare funding thereafter to keep up with enrollment,” he said. “This will empower Albertans to continue living in the comfort of their own homes and communities while freeing up badly needed acute care hospital beds.”
It would also work with the private sector, such as Shepherds Care in Barrhead, to increase seniors care capacity, and support and encourage local municipal authorities in developing programs to serve the needs of seniors in their community.
Kubinec said the Progressive Conservatives want to help aging Albertans stay at home and stay independent for as long as possible through enhancing home care capacity.
When a senior can no longer live at home, access to affordable living spaces in their own communities will be available and all Albertans will be able to depend on safe and secure long-term care.
“We have committed to opening 464 continuing care beds and 2,612 supportive living spaces,” she said. “We have committed to upgrade sprinkler and fire safety systems in 75 seniors lodges – improving 4,700 units over three years – and in 30 other seniors facilities with 1,750 continuing care spaces.”
Other policies include requiring minimum staffing standards for seniors lodges – a minimum of two staff members present at all times – and implementing an effective elder abuse prevention strategy.
Ensuring adequate long-term care facilities is a major element of the New Democrats’ program for seniors.
“The NDP is committed to building 2,000 new long-term care beds over the next four years, and will invest millions to ensure that the quality of care at all of our facilities is increased,” Turner said.