NDP calls on UCP to reject convention policy on privatizing health care

by Stephen Dafoe

Alberta’s NDP Opposition called on Premier Jason Kenney, Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Labour Minister Jason Copping Wednesday to publicly denounce an upcoming UCP convention motion on health care. 

Saturday’s UCP convention includes Policy 11, a request put forward by the Calgary-Varsity constituency, to “support the option of a privately-funded and privately-managed healthcare system.” 

NDP Health Critic David Shepherd said Wednesday, Albertans have a right to know the party’s intentions. “[W]ill Jason Kenney, Jason Copping and Tyler Shandro support Albertans public health care system, or support Americanizing the healthcare that Albertans have relied on during a pandemic?” Shepherd asked.

Policy 11, contained in the UCP policy package calls for the option of a privately-funded and privately-managed healthcare system. 

The rationale offered for the motion is that healthcare is the province’s most significant budgetary expense and that “recent events have shown how vulnerable the system is to demand fluctuations on it.”

“Not only have physicians been upset that there is no more money in the public purse, the government is fiscally unable to spend more toward their billing fees,” the policy statement reads. “Patients are limited to treatment options as doctors threaten to leave.”

The policy also suggests physicians should be allowed to offer more private fee-for-service to remain solvent and grow in scope under a hybrid system.

“Patients will have a choice to choose public or private service. If Healthcare insurance is available and legal, patients can divert themselves from public waitlist to the benefit of all patients,” the policy reads. “People using Private Tier System (allowing Private Hospital facilities similar to the Non-Hospital Surgical Facilities already existing) would effectively pay a user tax (fee for service) shifting some burden from the public tax revenue to private payments. This would also help to keep Medical Tourism dollars in Alberta.”

Shepherd is critical of the move and said the UCP is already supporting plans for a property developer to build a private hospital. 

“They need to publicly denounce this UCP policy resolution or admit that two-tiered American-style health care was their plan all along,” Shepherd said.

Tuesday, the province announced cuts to AHS it says will save $600 million per year. The cuts would come through attrition, layoffs and outsourcing more lab work, and laundry services, with food and cleaning services to follow.

Policy 7, to be debated Saturday at the UCP convention, calls for the government “examine and act upon all cost-effective opportunities to contract out the delivery of non-essential (e.g., grounds- keeping) and selected ancillary services to the private sector.”

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