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Proposed Health Act would put patients first

A new report recommending what the future of an Alberta Health Act could look like was handed over to Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky this week.

A new report recommending what the future of an Alberta Health Act could look like was handed over to Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky this week.

The report lays out 15 recommendations for what should form the basis of a new Alberta Health Act that is set to be introduced in the legislature this fall.

Fred Horne, MLA for Edmonton-Rutherford, submitted the report after leading a panel across the province looking for recommendations from the public.

The report recommends the creation of an Alberta health charter as part of the act. It suggests the system should focus on putting people first and that the system should focus on ensuring all Albertans have access to primary care teams.

Zwozdesky said he was impressed with the thorough nature of the report and the depth of public consultation it achieved.

He said the notion of a health charter is not a new suggestion, but this gives it more clarity.

“This has taken it a step farther and shown the kind of things people want in the health charter.”

The Canadian Health Act already governs the province on issues like access, but Zwozdesky said the Alberta Health Act will go further to address just what that word really means.

Zwozdesky said the provincial health system does a good job of helping people, but usually only when they are in the system.

“The system does a lot of that already, however the system is very much focused on patients and that is a good thing, but we need to broaden that,” he said. “Not everybody in Alberta is a patient, not everybody is in the system.”

Zwozdesky said a focus on ensuring Albertans have access to primary care is important and can, over time reduce costs in the system.

“If you can get more focus on the initial signs of complications or initial signs of bad habit formation, then you can impact the longer term health of the individual and reduce costs.”

Local MLA Ken Allred said he was impressed with the report and found it in line with what he heard at one of the panel sessions he attended.

“I don’t think there are any real surprises there,” he said. “From what I heard at that session and what I have heard from other members, it is about what was expected.”

Diana Gibson, research director of the Parkland Institute said she was fairly unimpressed with the report, noting it doesn’t say much the province shouldn’t already know.

She said the province already has a Canada Health Act and legislation around seniors’ care and continuing care and there is no reason to spend the time writing new laws.

“We already have legislation that we need to enforce.”

She said the report’s conclusion that the province needs more doctors would mean a lot more if there hadn’t already been increases to medical school tuition. She said rather than writing new reports, the province should focus on better funding the system the province has.

“It doesn’t take a whole consultation process to determine that if you want more doctors you should make medical school tuition more affordable and accessible.”

The new Alberta Health Act is to be introduced sometime during the fall sitting of the legislature, which begins on Oct. 25.

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