Alberta health restructuring is a plan for privatization

Friends of Medicare warns that UCP proposal “will only make things worse” 

PV staff  

In response to the Alberta government’s plan to dismantle Alberta Health Services (AHS) – a plan leaked to and released by the provincial NDP on November 7 – Friends of Medicare is warning of increased potential for further contracting out and privatization of vital health services.

Rather than providing adequate funding and staffing to Alberta’s ailing healthcare system, Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party (UCP) government plans to change the AHS from being the sole healthcare provider to focusing on acute care and continuing care. The UCP also plans to create four new organizations which would assume responsibility for different areas of healthcare. It’s a scheme that reeks of a “split it up and sell off the profitable bits” strategy.

“The outlined plan would be a massive undertaking that would impact every area of our already struggling public health care system,” stated Friends of Medicare in a November 7 press release. “It provides little information to suggest how it will improve local decision-making power as purported. Instead, the UCP [United Conservative Party] government intends to disassemble and silo the various sectors of our public healthcare system, potentially creating even more barriers to access.”

The organization’s executive director Chris Gallaway accused the UCP of using the health service as a scapegoat to deflect attention from its own political failings. “This alarming proposal to create chaos by restructuring Alberta Health Services, while opening up even more of our health care to privatization, isn’t what Albertans need to hear right now. We need action and real solutions to finally address the overlapping crises in our public health care.”

The healthcare system in Alberta is in a state of crisis, with many people struggling to even access the care they need. Tens of thousands of people in Alberta do not have a family doctor, dozens of facilities across the province are repeatedly closed on a temporary basis, and a widespread staffing crisis affects every aspect of healthcare. On top of that, lab services and infrastructure have been severely weakened by a failed privatization which the UCP imposed last year.

Gallaway notes that healthcare in Alberta has repeatedly been the target of right-wing, privatization-oriented schemes that have undermined the system. He says that the current restructuring plan is another disastrous example of these political games. “At a moment when so many health care workers are openly contemplating leaving the system, or the province, this is the worst possible time for the government to be creating even more instability and uncertainty.”

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