Liberals say government is 'hiding abysmal record' until after election
CALGARY — A regular Alberta Health Services three-month report card on wait times and medical data across the province will be delayed several weeks — potentially until after the spring election — as it undergoes government review.
Opposition critics contended the Tory government is holding on to the health superboard's third quarter report on surgery, emergency department and cancer therapy wait times until after the vote to ward off unwanted attention on the heated health care file.
But Health Minister Fred Horne said the government is "absolutely not" stalling on the report — rather is looking at how specific resources in the new provincial budget might improve performance in some problematic health care areas.
"We want to be able to talk about specific things we're trying to do to improve performance in specific areas," Horne said in an interview.
"Taking into account resources we might be able to apply in the budget after it's passed is part of that."
An AHS spokeswoman said the performance report — providing data from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2011 — will likely be on the board's public agenda in May or June.
The reports are generally released roughly every three months. The last quarterly report on performance measures was made public following a Dec. 8 AHS board meeting.
The newest figures on performance measures, however, were "delayed" and weren't ready for approval when the AHS board met in Canmore last week, said AHS communications vice-president Colleen Turner.
The next board meeting isn't until May 3.
With the passing of the provincial budget yesterday. the PC government is expected to drop the election writ by next week and send voters to the polls in late April.
Before the board can approve it, the AHS report card must first be forwarded to the Alberta Health and Wellness (AHW) Department for "review, recommendations, and the joint development of action plans and timelines tied to improving the results," Turner said in an email.
"We want to work with AHW on a closer link between the results and the budget being developed now."
The medical data will be sent the government by the end of the month, she added.
The previous performance report showed the medical system is making improvement in some key areas, but still falling below its own targets in many areas.
Liberal Leader Dr. Raj Sherman accused the Tory government of trying to keep the information from Alberta voters.
"The PCs are desperate. They're hiding an abysmal record on health care from voters," Sherman said.
He said the delayed report is a sign of the "blurred" boundaries between the Health Department and AHS, which provides medical care to Albertans.
Wildrose health critic Heather Forsyth said the government should allow the report to be seen on schedule.
"This government is notorious for hiding things they don't want Albertans to see," she said.
"If they had something to brag about, you can be guaranteed that report would have been released."
Calgary Herald, Mar 21 2012
Byline: Jamie Komarnicki
Minister reaches out to medical association
EDMONTON - Health Minister Fred Horne stood his ground on the nature of the province's public health-care inquiry Saturday, indicating recent calls from representatives of Alberta's 7,200 doctors to expand the probe's scope to look at alleged physician intimidation would not sway his government.
"We've made a decision as a government about the public inquiry, that decision's been made and the inquiry's being organized," Horne said.
Premier Alison Redford has called a public inquiry into allegations politicians have been able to jump ahead of other patients to gain faster access to health care.
On Friday, at a meeting of physician representatives with the Alberta Medical Association, doctors called on the province to examine physician intimidation allegations and apologize for what has happened to doctors who advocate for their patients.
A recent report of the Health Quality Council showed more than half of the province's doctors felt they had limited ability to advocate on behalf of their patients, 20 per cent expected "active, hateful obstruction" and 37 per cent said they faced negative reactions.
Horne, who said he does not dispute the facts of the report, said he has already begun reaching out to the medical association, the College of Physicians and Alberta Health Services to brainstorm "ways that we might actually reach out to doctors."
"I don't agree that an inquiry necessarily is the way to go about it, but I agree that we need to focus in on it," Horne said.
The health minister said he doesn't have a specific program in mind yet, but he is working on developing a process for better understanding doctors' experiences.
"I think we need to work together to find ways to reach out to physicians where they work, to go out and talk to them about what their day-to-day challenges are in relationships with administrators and how they get input into decisions that are made and how specifically disputes are being resolved in the workplace," Horne said.
"In my mind, it has to be something that doctors find meaningful and will accept and actually has the potential to improve things. But we've got to address this, because it's that culture, you know, that positive culture where doctors feel they've got some ownership over what's going on in health care, that's the thing I think that's going to move us forward and actually position us to address the problem."
Horne said he believes this dialogue can take place in a safe environment, where physicians feel secure from further intimidation, and said he will not be paving the way for "another plan or another review or another report, but an actual dialogue with physicians on their terms."
On Friday, Dr. Lloyd Maybaum, president of the Calgary and area medical staff association, said Alberta's doctors need to speak with one voice, demanding the province provide for an inquiry and "some form of truth and reconciliation, an acknowledgment of what happened in the past, an apology and a steadfast desire that we are gong to change."
Horne noted he also met with the medical association last week: "I'm not sure exactly what he's looking for. I certainly expressed my regret and the regret of the government yesterday when I spoke to doctors (about) the experiences that many of them have reported enduring and I'll continue to do that every opportunity I get."
Opposition parties are expected to make the Health Quality Council report — and how the government deals with the call for a public inquiry into intimidation — an election issue this spring, when Albertans go to the polls.
But Horne said he and Redford are most interested in moving forward. "It's a serious matter, and I don't think you address it through politicizing it."
Edmonton Journal, Sun Mar 18 2012
Byline: Trish Audette
As shocking as it is an ambulance crew was used by a for-profit Edmonton nursing home to evict an 80-year-old grandmother afflicted with dementia and dump her at a public hospital Emergency Room without telling her family, six months ago this story would have caused barely a ripple in our complacent and inattentive mainstream media.
Yet despite the fact the story was brought to attention yesterday morning by the Alberta Federation of Labour and Public Interest Alberta -- just the kind of progressive voices our homegrown media loves to ignore -- TV and print journalists were out in force to cover the appalling situation.
The reason, it's said here, is not altruism or even the kind of outrageous facts that traditionally make for a great news story. It's because the media smells Tory blood in the water.
With a long-plotted provincial election looming, the Alberta Progressive Conservatives under Premier Alison Redford are suddenly lurching from crisis to crisis. The public and media have started to take note things aren't exactly going the government's way.
And the appalling treatment of Grace Denyer, kicked out of the inaptly named Tranquility Care Home in south Edmonton after the private, for-profit, and apparently unregulated operator tried and failed to jack up the rent paid by her family, and dumped dazed and confused at the public Grey Nuns Hospital ER, is certain to focus more public attention on the Redford Tories' plans to privatize and deregulate seniors' care in this province.
In other words, this is yet another crisis for Redford's government -- which is nowadays reeling like a palooka, looking almost as befuddled as the one led by her predecessor Ed Stelmach.
Yesterday morning, you could feel the excitement of the media even before Denyer's daughter went to the microphone to recount the horrifying details of what happened to her mom, who last year also suffered a stroke and has only limited ability to speak, can't walk or feed herself and must wear a pacemaker.
The facts on their own are appalling, and well covered in the media: after growing dissatisfied at the quality of care in a public auxiliary hospital in the bedroom suburb of St. Albert, Denyer's family moved her to the private facility that advertised itself as being capable of taking long-term care patients.
They thought they could get a better quality of care, Beth Podgurny of St. Albert told the reporters, and indeed Denver was in stable condition and showed signs of improvement after the move. But despite signing a contract, within days Podgurny was told by the operator of the Tranquility facility that the $3,495-per-month price the family had negotiated for her mother's care was too low, and was going to have to jump to $4,995. (For only $500 more, the family was told, the company could house Denver in the basement.)
Podgurny and her husband Jackie thought they were involved in a resolvable dispute over the rent they'd agreed to pay the private operator for Beth's mom's care. The company apparently saw it as a simple business matter to be handled decisively, and "responded with an eviction notice to take effect in only a matter of days."
The eviction took the form of calling an Alberta Health Services ambulance crew and instructing them to haul Denver off to the public hospital, which they did. Podgurny and her sister didn't know anything about it until, shocked and frightened, they received phone calls from medical staff at the Grey Nuns.
"We are appalled that our 80-year-old mother was treated liked a commodity instead of being treated with the respect and dignity that all Albertans deserve," Podgurny told the news conference. "The fact that there appears to be nothing under provincial rules to prevent this is mind-boggling. It just goes to show that the privatization solution that Premier Alison Redford is pushing to address long-term-care issues isn't the answer for vulnerable Albertans.
"My family wants answers from the Conservative government," Podgurny stated. "Why was it possible for our mother and our family to be treated in this appalling fashion? Why is this facility allowed to advertise for and accept long-term-care patients when it is not licensed to do? How can they increase the rent in excess of 42 per cent within weeks of entering the home? How can they be allowed to evict and dump a resident at the Emergency door when they decide they no longer want to provide care?"
These are all great questions, and if they get answers, it will only be because the family has made this a public issue on the eve of a general election.
Earlier, Health Minister Fred Horne and Seniors Minister George VanderBurg didn't even bother responding to a letter outlining the family's concerns about their mother's treatment in St. Albert.
The reality, however, is that Albertans should get used to this sort of thing if the rampant privatization and commercialization of long-term care pushed hard by the Conservative governments of Ralph Klein, Stelmach and now Redford, and advocated by the far-right Wildrose Party as well, are allowed to continue apace.
As Public Interest Alberta Executive-Director Bill Moore-Kilgannon told yesterday's news conference, private long-term care operators have an ugly history of trying to "cherry-pick" low-cost, easy-to-care-for seniors for long-term care and dump the more complex and expensive cases on the public system.
"Unfortunately, this is not the only case we have heard of private facilities forcing seniors out when they feel they are too costly to support," he said. "We are calling on all political parties to commit to build a high-quality public care system for the growing population of seniors with chronic health-care needs -- and to stop the profiteering off our most vulnerable seniors."
Well, good luck with that with a government deeply committed to letting the private sector take over the public job of providing long-term care for vulnerable seniors, the better to provide families with "choice" -- you know, the choice of paying more or having their loved ones abandoned at a busy urban Emergency Ward.
Indeed, here in Alberta, taxpayers' dollars are being funnelled by the millions into subsidizing private, for-profit care of just the type experienced by Denver and her family.
At the very least, Podgurny said, "the government has to step up to the plate and they have to put the accountability back into the system. And they have to do it immediately."
"I said I would never let that happen to my mother before she was in long-term care," Podgurny told reporters, brushing aside a tear. "And it happened right before my eyes and there was nothing we could do about it!"
Now that it's become another election issue, it'll be interesting to see what Redford, Horne, VanderBurg and other members of the government have to say about the shocking treatment meted out to Grace Denver.
The nursing home operator, whom reporters complained they were having trouble contacting, has apparently left the country, Moore-Kilgannon told reporters.
Alberta Diary, Thurs Mar 15 2012
Statements from press conference, 10:00 a.m., March 14, 2012
Family of evicted long-term-care patient attacks plans for more privatization
Long-term care in Alberta is in crisis and the privatization solution being pushed by the Conservative government will only make the situation worse, says an Alberta family whose mother was evicted last week from a private care facility.
Grace Denyer is an 80-year-old who suffers from dementia, had a stroke in August 2011, has a pacemaker and is unable to walk and feed herself and has only limited speech ability (click here for backgrounder).
"Within days of moving into the Tranquility Care Home Inc. in South Edmonton, the for-profit facility started to ask for more money. They wanted to increase the monthly rent from $3,495 to $4,995, despite the fact we had signed a one-year contract for the lesser amount and they assured us they could care for my mother. When we instructed the home that we wanted to stick to the terms of the contract, they responded with an eviction notice, to take effect in only a matter of days," says her daughter Beth Podgurny of St. Albert.
"My mother was assessed as being in stable condition and designated as a long-term-care patient, but on the same day the assessment was made, the private-for-profit home where she was living decided it no longer wanted her and so dropped her off at a hospital emergency department without notifying us," says Podgurny.
"What has happened to our mother should not happen to anyone. It is clear proof that the profit motive and patients make are a poor mix."
Podgurny says she and her family have been concerned about Conservative government talk of raising the cap on accommodation fees for long-term care to encourage more private, corporatized care.
"Today, my family wants answers from the Conservative government. Why was it possible for our mother and our family to be treated in this appalling fashion? Why is this facility allowed to advertise for and accept long-term-care patients when it is not licensed to do so? How can they increase the rent in excess of 42 per cent within weeks of entering the home? How can they be allowed to evict and dump a resident at the emergency door when they decide they no longer want to provide care?"
The family also wants to know why they have not had the courtesy of a response from an earlier letter they sent to Health and Wellness Minister Fred Horne and Seniors Minister George VanderBurg seeking a public inquiry into long-term care.
"We wrote to the Ministers two months ago asking for a public inquiry and expressing concerns over the treatment of our mother at the Youville Home in St. Albert. We have heard nothing since," says Podgurny.
"Because of the treatment our mother endured at Youville, we were cautious about trusting the care she would receive in a private, for-profit home. Based on their assurances, we removed our mother from Youville and placed her in private care, even though we knew the fees would be a source of constant stress for the family. Little did we know that the situation was going to get far, far worse."
Noel Somerville, Chairperson of Public Interest Alberta's Seniors Task Force, says: "The Premier has told us that she supports expanding the role of corporations in providing care to seniors. As we see from this shocking story, the province needs to protect our most vulnerable seniors by stopping these types of private facilities who decide they no longer want the bother of caring for your mother, your sister, your father – and simply drop your loved one off at hospital and leave them to clog up the acute-care system."
"Unfortunately, this is not the only case we have heard of private facilities forcing seniors out who they feel are too costly to support," says Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. "On the eve of a provincial election, we are calling on all political parties to commit to build a high-quality public-care system for the growing population of seniors with chronic health-care needs – and to stop the profiteering off our most vulnerable seniors."
MEDIA CONTACT: Bill Moore-Kilgannon, 780-993-3736
NOTE: The Alberta Federation of Labour got to know the family of Grace Denyer while working on the recent Beyond Acute Care Conference in Edmonton. When approached by the family, the AFL agreed to help organize the media conference to bring this important issue to the attention of Albertans.
- Parkland Institute, "Delivery Matters," February 23, 2012
- YouTube video, "Fighting for Her Mother's Long-term Care in Alberta"
Supportive living complexes may be unsafe, officials say
Over a quarter of residents in Alberta's supported living facilities may be unsafe because there is insufficient staffing and care for their complex medical needs, according to a recent study.
And the report - co-written by epidemiologists at the University of Calgary and University of Alberta - found seniors in these facilities were more than twice as likely to be rushed to an emergency ward or end up staying overnight in a hospital compared with nursing home patients who have round-the-clock nursing care.
"We have put some people in supported living when we should have known their condition could quickly deteriorate and there was a lack of medical oversight," author Colleen Maxwell said. "We do worry whether people with diabetes, heart conditions and dementia are slipping through the cracks."
Maxwell, a former U of C researcher who is now a professor at the University of Waterloo's school of public health, said she was surprised to find that over half the residents in sup-ported living facilities were medically unstable and nearly 60 per cent had been diagnosed with dementia.
But the facilities were much less likely to have the medical expertise to handle these conditions than nursing homes. Only 34 per cent had doctors who were formally affiliated with the facility. Less than half had a licensed practical nurse on duty at all times.
"Everybody wants a more home-like environment and likes the idea of aging in place," Maxwell said, "but as with the experience in the United States, there are questions about whether a supported living facility can respond to prevent ad-verse events."
The survey of over 2,000 residents - half in supported living facilities and half in nursing homes - showed marked differences in how residents accessed medical care and what it cost the system.
In the previous 90 days, patients in a long-term care setting were 50 per cent more likely to have seen a doctor, but they were less than half as likely to have been hospitalized or to have visited an ER.
"Once someone has a hip fracture, they have to go the ER," Maxwell said. "The question is, was everything was done at the facility to prevent that fall."
She said the survey also found residents in supported living paid higher fees, faced additional costs for health-related supplies and services and that family caregivers were expected to bear more of the burden of care.
"There is this off-loading of costs and care on to family members," she said.
"Many told us they enjoyed getting involved, but there is a limit beyond which we can expect caregiver burn-out or the exhaustion of financial resources."
Liberal health critic Dr. David Swann said the findings raise serious questions about the province's continuing care strategy and its focus on adding more supported living beds instead of nursing home spaces.
"If the government wants people to age in place, they need to ensure they are getting adequate medical attention," Swann said.
"When patients end up in ERs and hospitals, it's neither the best care nor is it the most cost-effective for the system."
In the wake of conflicting numbers from the seniors ministry about the number of nursing home beds, Health Minister Fred Horne released figures this week that show Alberta has 50 fewer spaces today than it did four years ago, when the province promised it would add hundreds of new beds to eliminate hospital gridlock and shorten ER waits.
Wildrose health critic Heather Forsyth said she was troubled by the decline in the number of nursing home beds and the government's difficulty in pinning down an exact number.
Calgary Herald, Tues Mar 13 2012
Byline: Matt McClure
In a preview of upcoming provincial election debates, Health Minister Fred Horne took on four party leaders Monday night in a town hall discussion on the future of health care in Alberta.
Amid continuing care, the use of health technology and worker morale, some of the most emotional exchanges of the night erupted when a member of the audience asked if any of the parties had "the political will" to fix problems that have been around for decades, such as long waiting lists and inadequate staffing. It was four against one, as the opposition leaders blasted Horne for his government's failings to make sufficient progress on the problems.
Horne said the Redford government was on the right track, adding that people need to stop looking for a "magic fix" to complicated issues.
The best health systems in the world "look for incremental improvement based on consultations with front-line staff," Horne told a crowd of about 300 people packed into a lecture hall at University Hospital.
But Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said Horne was being disingenuous, since the Alberta health system hasn't shown incremental improvement on reducing waiting times or ensuring the system has enough doctors, nurses and technicians. She said the government's decision to stick with a system man-aged by the Alberta Health Services superboard would prevent further progress, since it will "trap" workers in an organization that doesn't work.
NDP Leader Brian Mason said the system has still not recovered from the damage done by former health minister Ron Liepert, who championed the switch from local health authorities to AHS.
"With all due respect, minister, your government has been working on this for 40 years," Mason said to scattered applause. "The NDP invented health care and we will always be its most reliable defender."
Liberal Leader Dr. Raj Sherman said his will to fix the problems was evident through his courage in at-tacking the government when he was still a member of the PC caucus. He said his party can solve issues quickly, in part through more investment in long-term care and home care.
"We don't need incremental change. People are suffering right now," he said, while Horne shook his head.
Alberta Party Leader Glenn Taylor said his group went through building a party from scratch precisely because they felt the current government was not up to the task of delivering essential services.
The forum, hosted by the Edmonton Journal and the Alberta Medical Association, featured questions from both members of the public and health-care organizations.
Another topic that produced fire-works came when a retired obstetrician asked the panellists how they would curb queue-jumping, admit-ting that he "unashamedly" engaged in the practice once to get his wife a CT scan after hours.
Again, opposition leaders used the opportunity to go after Horne on his government's recent decision to hold a public inquiry into allegations that politically connected people have been queue-jumping to get better or faster care.
While the health minister said Premier Alison Redford had honoured her promise by proceeding with the inquiry, Sherman went on the attack. "Fred, I've got to call you on this. The premier is misleading the public," he said, arguing the inquiry should also look into the alleged intimidation of doctors. He said the best way to pre-vent queue-jumping was not to have a waiting line in the first place.
Mason and Smith also said they were not convinced the inquiry, as structured, would do any good.
Other questions focused on improving rural health care and ensuring private health-care providers are paying workers a fair wage.
All the opposition leaders said they would divert money from bureaucracy to front-line services and introduce more local control into decisions about health-care delivery. Smith said her party hopes to move away from the AHS model and instead look at some sort of "hybrid" system of public and private care that is used in countries such as Switzerland and Germany.
"The solution doesn't end with a superboard or regional health authorities. It ends with the defeat of this government," Taylor said.
Horne said the province is moving to give local health advisory councils more say.
"But we don't believe they need to be elected or that we need to go back to a system of governance from the 1970s."
A similar town hall was held last week in Calgary.
Edmonton Journal, Tues Mar 13 2012
Byline: Keith Gerein
Horne says province trying to mend relationships with MDs
CALGARY — Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne said he's not aware of political intimidation in the province's medical system — and said the Tory government is trying to mend its relationship with physicians.
Under fire from opposition critics at a health-care town hall Tuesday, Horne acknowledged Alberta's medical system is in a "tumultuous" time, but said there's no crisis and the government is taking steps to improve public health care.
"I do not believe our health-care system as a whole is in crisis in Alberta," Horne said. "There are some relationships in our health-care system that need attention."
About 200 community members, physicians and other health-care professionals attended the forum Tuesday.
With an election call potentially just weeks away — and Alberta's doctors promising to ramp up public advocacy — Horne and representatives from four opposition parties fielded questions on politically charged health-care problems.
Horne fended off accusations from opposition parties that the Redford government has lost the trust of health workers and Albertans over its handling of medical issues in the wake of a scathing Health Quality Council of Alberta report.
Alberta Liberal health critic Dr. David Swann said a "chronic uncertainty" in the system must be resolved.
"The professionals in the system have not seen the kind of changes that would actually build trust, build a sense of solidarity, and a plan going forward they can buy into," he said.
Heather Forsyth of the Wildrose contended the health-care system is "broken," and the government must do a better job managing resources.
The panel, hosted by the Alberta Medical Association, the Canadian Medical Association and the Calgary Herald, also included Alberta Party Leader Glenn Taylor and Alberta NDP candidate Shannon Phillips.
It comes as the government has promised to enact 21 recommendations to improve care following the health quality council report last month that found lengthy emergency-room waits and widespread problems of physicians being bullied.
A judicial inquiry on health care will only examine allegations of queue-jumping in the Alberta medical system.
The health quality council report found stories of physicians who were being intimidated, but didn't identify specific cases.
"If we really want accountability in this system, we need that full judicial inquiry and we need it now, not after the election," Phillips said.
"Why don't we do what Albertans want, instead of what the government wants, in regards to the inquiry?" said Forsyth.
Horne said Tuesday the government has already begun work to build a "just and trusting" culture in health care and an inquiry isn't needed into physician intimidation. Asked whether there are cases of political interference from cabinet or caucus in the instances of intimidation documented in the report, Horne said: "Not to my knowledge."
The forum covered a broad range of issues, including plans for the Redford government's new family care clinics, alternate models of payment for physicians and an increased role for Alberta's pharmacists.
The province's plan for continuing care spaces also came under the microscope. The government has committed to reducing acute care bed occupancy to 95 per cent by Oct. 31, and that means, in part, ensuring more seniors are moved from hospital beds into nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
The health minister said there are 14,600 long-term care beds in Alberta, and as of January, about 325 Albertans waiting in acute care beds for the spaces.
"We're interested in placing people in facility-based care who need it. We are equally interested in facilitating a return to home with appropriate support for people who don't need to be in a facility."
Forsyth noted that in 2010, the government said Alberta had 14,800 long-term care beds and questioned why the number has gone down while the need increases.
Grilled about the new family care clinics, promised by Premier Alison Redford during her Tory leadership bid, Horne said work is underway to open three pilot projects by the end of this month. The centres are supposed to support better primary care in Alberta by having a team of health professionals in one facility with extended hours.
Critics questioned how the centres will be different from existing primary care networks. Horne said the family care clinics will be designed to offer small communities services to meet their unique needs.
Tuesday's forum came as the AMA appealed for an end to political interference in physician advocacy, and promised a "higher level of public advocacy."
The group took out full-page ads in the Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal, asking, "Just how sick is Alberta's health-care system."
The ads, which were published as doctors have been without a long-term agreement since March 2011, state that advocacy "requires physicians being involved in decisions that really matter surrounding the care of you and your family. It also requires an end to political interference and the creation of a respectful relationship between Alberta's doctors and the government."
Last month the Tory government imposed a one-year salary arrangement on Alberta doctors, including a two per cent increase in fees and a boost to the amount given to primary care networks to $62, up from $50 per enrolled patient.
Negotiations on a long-term deal with doctors are continuing.
Calgary Herald, Wed Mar 7 2012
Byline: Jamie Komarnicki
The government has it backwards when it comes to the new public inquiry being launched into queue-jumping in the health-care system.
Sure, it's a troubling issue. But former Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett, who red-flagged the problem of go-to guys in the system MLAs could use to fast- track treatment for influential Albertans, said he put a stop to it before he was canned.
The new inquiry, which Premier Alison Redford insists fulfils a promise she made in her leadership campaign, will determine if queue-jumping "is occurring."
With the microscope trained on health care these days, it's a safe bet the inquiry, headed by retired N.W.T. court judge John Z. Vertes, won't unearth much hanky panky.
It's also safe to assume that, given human nature, queue-jumping took place in the past, but ostensibly we'll never know for sure, because that won't fall within the scope of this probe.
"We have an independent judicial inquiry starting their work today on the issue that matters to Albertans," Premier Alison Redford said Monday.
An odd conclusion, given that most Albertans are far more alarmed that the queues exist in the first place.
Redford and Health Minister Fred Horne blow off demands for a broader inquiry by suggesting a "task force" will take care of such issues as physician intimidation and the impact of the massive 2008 restructuring.
Better yet, as a government heading into an election in April, they hope it will put a lid on this mess until well after Albertans cast their votes.
Not much chance of that.
There were too many questions raised in the troubling report by the Health Quality Council of Alberta on physician intimidation, inability to cut wait times and the impact of the major shakeup initiated by Health Minister Ron Liepert after the last election.
Add to this the brutal criticism contained in a full-page ad by the Alberta Medical Association Tuesday that asks: "Just how sick is Alberta's health-care system?"
It addresses patients who've had problems with access to family doctors and specialists, long waiting times in emergency rooms and the lack of long-term care services.
"Unfortunately, the news about the health-care system over the past few days won't give you much hope for improvement in the future," reads the startling "message from the doctors of Alberta."
It's clear physicians, who revealed brutal accounts of bullying and intimidation during the Health Quality Council probe, won't let themselves get kicked around any longer.
It's been a bad week for the Tories, with the revelation a government MLA advised a Catholic school board to shut up if it wanted funding to replace a school that was shamefully rundown.
The episode makes it painfully clear the lengths to which this government will go to silence criticism.
It also raises the question of the price we've paid as a result of this enforced silence.
Redford says "we have to move ahead" on fixing health care, rather than dwelling on "reliving the past to the point where we cannot improve the health care system."
She's probably right, but before we can do that, we have to figure out why our health-care system has gone so horribly off-course, despite the riches poured into it.
The Tory government, which has ruled with an iron fist to stifle dissent, has bungled health care to the point where the province's doctors are now in open revolt.
Somebody needs to be held to account for this mess.
If Redford won't do that, it will be up to Alberta voters.
It's beginning to look like a fix for health care won't come while the Tories are running the show.
Calgary Sun, Wed Mar 7 2012
Byline: Roy Clancy
Consumer advocate cautions voters on politicians using “creative language” on health care in upcoming election
EDMONTON - With a provincial election expected this spring, voters are going to be wooed by politicians using "creative language" to promise improved health care when they're elected, consumer advocate Wendy Armstrong said Saturday.
But they won't tell you what will suffer because of those changes, because promises aren't always kept, she said.
"I don't think you can hold people accountable, whatever party they're with, after an election ... unless you have strong opposition. Otherwise, everything goes behind closed doors."
Armstrong made the comments after taking part in a panel discussion at a conference looking beyond acute health care hosted by the Alberta Federation of Labour, Public Interest Alberta, and a coalition of seniors' organizations.
She wasn't the only participant expressing concern. Ryan Geake, who works with adults with disabilities in Calgary, told more than 300 delegates a set of policies called the Community Inclusion Framework disappeared from the government's website sometime in the last six months.
The policies, which outlined what the lives and services of disabled Albertans should be, had been agreed upon by disabled groups, community groups, parents, families and the government, he said.
"This is gone and no one will tell us where it's gone, so if you want to destroy a system, I think I'm learning the very first step is to destroy the values of that system that were said to be important and take them away so people don't have a way to discuss what's going on."
He also said the IQ level at which people with a developmental disability can receive services was changed, making it harder for some to qualify.
"It's another great way to do some cost containment in this province on the backs of disabled folks."
However, after an uproar the move was amended so it wouldn't affect people already receiving services, he said.
But Armstrong said many people are afraid to speak up about such issues.
"There have been times when I've been afraid to speak up too, and this is wrong. We need to have these discussions out in the open. People shouldn't be punished for speaking out in public."
Government officials couldn't be reached for comment.
Speakers mentioned the Health Quality Council of Alberta report released last week, which detailed how the creation of Alberta Health Services in 2008 led to confusion and widespread instances of physician intimidation and muzzling.
The government is expected to release details this week about a judicial inquiry into the report's findings.
Edmonton Journal, Sat Feb 25 2012
Byline: Chris Zdeb
February 21 2012: Beyond Acute Care Conference; Better Way Alberta; Budget 2012; farm workers; HSAA information pickets
Last chance to see Ralph Nader and Maude Barlow at Beyond Acute Care Conference
- You have only until tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday, Feb. 22) to register for the Beyond Acute Care: Covering Seniors and the Disabled with the Medicare Umbrella. This is an important event affecting all Albertans, bringing in experts from around the world and across Canada, including world-renowned consumer advocate Ralph Nader and Maude Barlow, of the Council of Canadians. For information on the conference and to register, click here; want to find out what the conference is all about? Watch this great animated video here.
For information about the speakers at the Beyond Acute Care conference, click here ...
Great video ad shows there is a Better Way for Alberta
- It just doesn't add up! Alberta is one of the wealthiest jurisdictions on Earth, but can't seem to find enough money to adequately fund the public services that Albertans want, including health care and education. The reason? Our tax and royalty system is broken and wealthy individuals and corporations aren't paying their fair share. But there is a Better Way. Watch the great video ad for Better Way Alberta. Here the cheeky radio ads, follow the campaign on Twitter and like the Facebook page at www.BetterWayAlberta.ca. For more information ...
Tax and royalty giveaways continue in Alberta's Budget 2012
- The first budget from Conservative Premier Alison Redford showed that little has changed in the government's attitude to the oil industry and wealthy corporations. There was no sign of an end to billions of dollars in tax and royalty giveaways and no honest conversation with Albertans on how to fix the province's broken revenue system. For more information ...
Alberta government must act now to prevent farm-worker tragedy
- A transportation tragedy on the scale that killed 11 farm workers in Ontario in early February is looming in Alberta unless the government acts now to prevent it, says the AFL. It called on the Conservatives to close the legal loopholes that allow farm workers to be transported in the back of open trucks and in other dangerous vehicles now - not to wait until there's a tragic accident in this province. For more information ...
Join HSAA members on information pickets - HSAA will be holding information pickets tomorrow (Wednesday, Feb. 22)from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Bargaining with AHS broke down after 10 months when they finally tabled a monetary package that included an "offer" of 0, 0 and Cost of Living and failed to address the issues brought forward by the HSAA membership. Please show you support by joining them at the following locations:
- Edmonton: University of Alberta Hospital - 112th Street entrance
- Edmonton: Royal Alexandra Hospital - Kingsway Avenue
- Edmonton: Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital - 111th Avenue
- Calgary: Foothills Medical Centre - Main Entrance on 29th St. NW
- Calgary: Peter Lougheed Centre - 36th St. NE
- Red Deer: Red Deer Regional Hospital - 50A Ave
- Medicine Hat: Medicine Hat Regional Hospital - 5 St. SW
- Fort McMurray: Northern Lights Regional Health Centre - Hospital Street
- Grand Prairie: Queen Elizabeth II Hospital - 105 Ave
HSAA President Elisabeth Ballermann will be addressing the media from the University of Alberta Hospital picket.
For further information, visit http://www.hsaa.ca/home
- Attend the Calgary launch of Kevin Taft's Follow the Money - Ever wonder why Alberta's so rich, but our schools and hospitals seem to be so poor? MLA Kevin Taft has the answer in his new book, Follow the Money, and accompanying video documentary by award-winning producer Tom Radford. Join us for the Calgary launch of Follow the Money at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23, at Memorial Park Library, 1221 2 Street S.W., Calgary. For details ... To view a clip from the documentary, click here ... For more information on the book ...
- February 24-25: Beyond Acute Care conference with Ralph Nader and Maude Barlow
- February 24-26: EDLC Annual Labour School
- March 8: International Women's Day
- March 21: International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination
- March 21-23: CUPE Alberta 62nd Annual Convention
- March 22: World Water Day
- April 3: International Day for Mine Awareness
- April 6: World Health Day
- April 21: Earth Day
- April 27: International Day of Mourning for workers who have been killed, suffer disease or injury as a result of work.