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Alberta Politics

wildrose seeks bailout for private health clinic.


Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason at yesterday's media conference.

Yesterday in Edmonton, NDP leader Brian Mason joined retired health care aid Loretta Raiter as she described how funding cuts to long-term care have affected the quality of living for seniors at Salem Manor in Leduc. According to Mrs. Raiter, the funding crunch was so bad that People were sometimes given powdered meal replacements instead of real food and some patients ended up sitting for hours in soiled diapers. It is shameful and embarrassing when short-sighted financial decisions are put ahead of human dignity and quality of care.

An hour earlier in Calgary, Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith stood with the operators of a bankrupt private health clinic and accused Alberta Health Services of reneging on a deal with the facility. Ms. Smith then called on Health & Wellness Minister Gene Zwozdesky to intervene by using taxpayers dollars to prop up the private clinic which is stuck in a $65 million financial hole. In May 2010, Alberta Health Services stepped in to stop the bankruptcy proceedings and pay for the costs of a receiver to keep the centre operating in the interim. Alberta Health Services has many faults, but in this case they made the responsible decision by seeking to bring the staff and services of the private health clinic back into the public system.

I was glad to see Liberal MLA Kevin Taft jump into the fray and insert some common sense into this issue:

“I’m struck with how Danielle Smith jumps to the defence of a corporation instead of a defence of the taxpayer and patients who need quality care.”

The Wildrose Alliance has drawn a line in the sand on this serious policy issue by standing in favor of increased private health care. In a recent letter to the Calgary Herald, Wildrose nomination candidate John Carpay decried the public system and called for increased private-for-profit health care where Albertans wallets are responsible for determining their quality of service (interestingly, in a more recent letter he criticized the PCs support of “corporate welfare”).

Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith at a January 2010 media conference.

Mr. Carpay finds himself  squarely on the opposite side of public opinion according to a recent Ipsos-Reid poll which showed that less that 10% of Albertans would support more opportunities to pay for health services out of their own pockets. I understand that Mr. Carpay does not speak for his party, but as a candidate (and potentially a future MLA or cabinet minister) he will help shape his party’s position on health care.

The Wildrose Alliance has shown Albertans that they are not only prepared to stand with private health care operators, but that they are also prepared to use taxpayer dollars to bail them out when faulty business plans go awry.

Related post: David Climenhaga dissects this move by the Wildrose Alliance.

14 replies on “wildrose seeks bailout for private health clinic.”

I heard that Networc Health Company was given a sweetheart deal by the former Calgary Health Region but then when AHS was formed they demanded more accountability with finances. Networc didn’t deliver on their part of the deal when they filed for $65 million bankruptcy protection.

Danielle Smith is all over the map in defending this broken down health care experiment. I don’t oppose all private health care. I do oppose private health care if it wastes my taxes. HRC did exactly that.

Free market or government intervention — which one is it Danielle?

less that 10% of Albertans would support more opportunities to pay for health services out of their own pockets.

That’s interesting, but it’s also irrelevant to this issue, since this private clinic did not charge people for their services. Treatment was “free” to the end user; everything was covered by the single-payer public health system.

(And this private clinic also cost taxpayers something like 30% less than getting the same treatment in a public hospital, plus they were paying for the capital costs of the expanded facility themselves.)

Also, your quoting of this poll makes it sound like 10% of Canadians support letting people pay out-of-pocket and while up to 90% oppose it. In fact, the poll was a ranking of the best way to deal with rising costs:

11% said to provide more opportunity to pay out-of-pocket
28% said to spend more money (We’ve been trying that for the last 10+ years…)
61% said to “find efficiencies” (Like a private clinic that does the same procedure for 30% less?)

And if it turns out that the reason Networc is in receivership really is because AHS broke their word, then yes, the gov’t should be responsible for cleaning up the mess, since they’re the ones who made it.

Ah the constant right wing refrain that we have already tried “spending more money”. Of course that’s not true at all. Our governments have spent the last 30 years reducing the tax “burden” at all levels, in Alberta we’ve lost progressive taxation, health premiums, corporate taxation has been drastically slashed and even oil& gas royalty rates have been dropped. The government cannot balance our social health care system with American style taxation policies. The reality is Alberta needs higher taxes if we want this style of health care system to work. It worked fine for ages before we started gutting all manner of provincial taxes.

“…this private clinic also cost taxpayers something like 30% less than getting the same treatment in a public hospital…” Actually, no: care provided at the private facility cost more per case than the same care provided at public hospitals. In addition, research has shown that private centres tend to “cherry-pick” lower-risk clients, leaving those people with more complex situations, such as co-morbidities (diabetes, heart disease, etc.) for the public system to look after, driving up per-case costs in the public system.

Health care is not the manufacture of widgets; it is a public service that should be provided out of the public purse… period, end of sentence.

Tom, yes, Networc were given a sweetheart deal but that was in the past and has no relevance to the current situation. AHS’s created this problem for Networc/HRC. It is my understanding that AHS’s had told HRC’s that they would be sending more surgeries to them so HRC’s contracted for more space as, at the current location, they did not have the capacity to take on the additional work (I suspect there isn’t anything in writing, bad move on the part of HRC). The McCaig Tower is now just about complete and, with the 2010 budget the PC government has provided set funding increases for AHS’s over the next 5 years. With the guaranteed increase in funding AHS’s committed to hiring 70% of the RN graduates (this is after saying they would not be hiring any of the new graduates) so will now need somewhere for them to work. Typically, even though the PC government has built the McCaig Tower (construction started before 2006) there would not have been funding to staff it so I am of the opinion that the building would have remained empty, much like the wings at the Peter Lougheed and the Rockyview. New wings built, old wings closed, no additional beds. So, AHS’s now has a building that they can use so reneged with their agreement with HRC to increase the number of surgeries. Not only have they reneged, they have told the HRC staff that they can come and work at the McCaig Tower. Doesn’t seem very ethical to me.

This is a big mess that I strongly feel was created by AHS’s. If they are able to cancel their contract with HRC then all of the other private companies that do business with AHS’s, and there are a lot of them, should have great cause for concern.

Temperance, I do not know, perhaps someone else does. The thing of it is; AHS’s said they would give HRC more surgeries. To do these surgeries HRC needed more operating rooms. Networc/HRC contracted with Cambrian Properties for the additional operating rooms (HRC would move into the new building that is down the hill south and west of the Foothills Hospital). AHS’s then told HRC they were moving the surgeries to the McCaig Tower so were not going to give them any additional surgeries (the irony here is the McCaig Tower is just up the hill from the Cambrian building). Networc/HRC now will not have the funds to pay rent in the Cambrian building as 900 surgeries would not cover the rent so Cambrian, because of their contract for the building rent that Networc would not be able to pay, forced Networc/HRC into receivership.

AHS’s could not have HRC closed down as it would mean all Alberta citizens that were scheduled to have joint surgery done at HRC would now have a much longer wait time (remember AHS’s has promised shorter wait times) so AHS’s became one of the HRC creditors so that HRC could continue to operate.

The situation now is AHS’s will open the McCaig Tower in November and will no longer need HRC so, in my opinion, do not seem to have any compunction about putting HRC out of business and stealing their employees.

HRC was a case of public dollars paying a private company to expedite medical care for Albertans and, until this all came about, was working. These were patients that did not need to go into an acute care hospital but to a hospital that was specifically set up for joint replacement.

As usual, Danielle Smith is right. Public delivery is no longer affordable and we should be bailing out these private facilities to give people quality care.

Okay Wildrose Girl, I am not sure if you are being sarcastic but if you aren’t, you have missed the point. This is not about public delivery being unaffordable; this is about AHS’s trying to back out of a signed contract so that they can take these surgeries back in-house (along with the HRC employees).

Danielle’s point is that HRC was providing an excellent service and, due to circumstances, circumstances to which AHS’s contributed, they want to cancel their contract with HRC. What Danielle is saying is that she doesn’t think AHS’s should cancel the contract.

I suggest you go on the Wildrose website and read the news release regarding this situation as it is very informative.

The government has not only the right but the obligation to cancel the contract if it’s not in the public interest. Whose interest does Danielle Smith act in? Clearly her own and the narrow ideological extreme that the Wildrose represents.

Gerry;

[i]”…Free market or government intervention or [b]public-pirate[/b] partnership?”[/i]

I don’t know if that’s a Freudian slip or not, but that seriously made me laugh. Yar!

Im surprised David – you’re usually much more informed when you write.

Wildrose wasn’t asking for a ‘bailout’ – they were demanding the gov ensure the contract for 3500 surgeries was respected – this would allow HRC to remain solvent and exit receivership (and we’d see more Albertans getting the care they need).

Not only that, some of yo uhere speak as if we only have a few money grubbing private delivers in this province – you do realize that almost every family doc and many many specialists work out of private facilities dont you? What if the government said to one of them – hey, we’re not going to pay you tour fee for service anymore for no reason – sorry, you’re going to lose your clinic. Wouldn’t that be just a bit out of line?

The gov promises 3500 surgeries, HRC builds facility to accomodate them, AHS renegs on contract, HRC goes into receivership. Is this honestly defensible to you people? If so, I have lost any previous intellectual respect I may have had for you Dave.

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