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”).
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.