Alberta needs inclusive health care for everyone, especially during a pandemic

UCP policies limit access to health care and put public health at risk

EDMONTON - The UCP government recently announced that beginning on April 1, 2020, Alberta Health will no longer pay physicians to treat anyone that does not have a provincial health card number. Physicians not getting paid for treating someone without a health card applies to everyone, including someone with COVID-19 symptoms.

This could lead to people who are sick and need help being turned away and denied access to health care. During a global health pandemic denying people access to health care could put many more people at risk.

“The decision to no longer provide compensation for those without their health card is cruel at the best of times, but illogical during a public health emergency and global pandemic”, said Alberta Federation of Labour president, Gil McGowan. “This policy of requiring a health card is part of the UCP’s ongoing attacks on Alberta doctors and should be repealed immediately.”

There are many residents in Alberta without immigration status and thus are not covered for basic health care services. This includes newly-landed permanent residents, temporary foreign workers who have lost status and work permits, and international students who are now in limbo. Often when people lose work permits or status, they cannot access health care.

“We have heard stories of workers going to get their COVID-19 tests and being asked for their health card. We have heard stories of folks who are worried about seeking medical help because of their current employment or immigration status” said McGowan. “If we want to ensure public health during this pandemic we need to ensure everyone in Alberta can access the testing and care they need without fear, and without barriers.”

In a recent open letter to Premier Kenney, driven by Migrante Alberta, over 150 frontline workers raised their concerns and urged the UCP government to include everyone in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Provinces such as Quebec and Ontario have already acted to protect all residents in their province by removing barriers and ensuring free health care coverage of everyone regardless of status, including for COVID-19 assessments and care.

“The UCP needs to take public health during this pandemic seriously. If other provinces can act, so can Alberta. They need to immediately reverse their attacks on physicians, and ensure barrier free access to health care for everyone in Alberta“ concluded McGowan.

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MEDIA CONTACT:
Ramona Franson
Director of Communications, AFL
rfranson@afl.org