A local senior citizens’ organization has joined a growing number of people across the province that are voicing their concerns about a new Alberta Health Act.
Dick Tansey, chair of the St. Albert chapter of Seniors United Now (SUN) said, after participating in an Alberta Health Services consultation session on the proposed act earlier this year, SUN sent a letter to Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Fred Horne stating it was not in favour of the act.
“We’re not opposed to legislation that is based on principles provided that they are clear and meaningful principles,” Tansey told the Gazette on Monday.
“A meaningful principle might be one that extended the scope of insurance services under the Canada Health Act to cover all medically necessary services as determined by a doctor,” he explained.
Last week, Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky accepted all 15 recommendations contained in the Alberta Health Act consultation report, which was presented to him in September.
The recommendations include putting people first, notifying the public when regulations are proposed and establishing a health advocate.
One of SUN’s main concerns, said Tansey, is what they see as a move towards the privatization of health care in Alberta.
“They keep referring to publicly-funded services but they don’t mention public service,” he said.
“They talk about public funded but not public service. To us, they’re leaving that out intentionally because they’re moving toward private service,” he added.
Privatization, he said, is something they definitely don’t support.
“Privatization is for profit and the operators, their concerns are going to be the bottom line. “Are we making any money doing what we’re doing here or whoops, we’re not making any money here so what do we do to overcome that problem?”
SUN isn’t the only group concerned with a potential move toward privatization.
Earlier this month, Friends of Medicare (FoM) said the new Alberta Health Act would make it easier for the government to expand private health insurance.
The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) said last week the act should include guarantees there will be no rollbacks to existing protections of public health care now contained in the province’s laws.
Currently, the province’s healthcare framework does not allow private funding and private delivery of health-care services.
“This new act needs to go beyond feel-good platitudes and be specific about what changes will be made to Alberta’s existing health care laws,” said Guy Smith, AUPE president, in a statement.
He said the act should be worded in such a way as to ensure that protections contained in the existing legislation are protected and enhanced.
Smith said many of the committee’s recommendations, such as “establishing principles in the Alberta Health Act that clearly put people first” and mandating a health charter are vague and unclear.
In addition, he said the health charter will not guarantee access to specific services because it will not be a rights-based document.
Dr. Darryl LaBuick, a family physician at the Grandin Medical Clinic said, depending on how the document is viewed, a new Alberta Health Act could be a useful tool.
“If you’re looking at it as a visionary-type document, it’s a good document and it’s a great standard to reach to but if you’re looking at it as an operational-technical document, that’s not really what it’s designed for,” LaBuick told the Gazette yesterday.
The real challenge, he said, is whether the words in the act will translate into real improvements in patient care.
“If you’re saying that you want to put people first then what are the actual things that you want to do to make sure that that’s focused on patients?”