In a cost-cutting effort, Edmonton and Calgary will lose 350 acute-care hospital beds over the next three years as well as the 150 already about to be closed at Alberta Hospital Edmonton, the Edmonton Journal reported last night.
As we watch with growing concern the frightening developments in Alberta’s health care system over the next few days, we need to keep in mind that everything now happening here in Alberta comes straight out of the international privatization playbook.
The game plan of the right-wing privatizers and the governments whose elections they finance calls first for an engineered funding “crisis,” followed by deep cuts to which “there is no alternative.”
Of course, to many citizens, the idea that our government would manufacture a bogus crisis to deceive us in order to achieve a fundamentally political goal is a hard pill to swallow. Still, it should be clear to most by now that Alberta Health Services would like us to have the impression the present situation is the result of years of improvidence by Alberta’s prodigal health system, which must now be disciplined with a dose of private sector medicine, bad tasting but good for us.
Indeed, Alberta Health Services faces a “significant budget challenge,” health care supremo Stephen Duckett reminded us in his latest blog, published yesterday. “We must position ourselves so that we go into the next financial year with the savings strategies in place or at least locked in for implementation in the first few months of the financial year,” Mr. Duckett wrote. “This has been an incredibly difficult task, to put it mildly.”
With the tireless marketing of this meme in mind, I would like to ask readers to cast their minds back to Aug. 27, 2008, well before Mr. Duckett had left Australia’s sunny shores to help us find our way out of this alleged financial morass.
On that date, reporter Emily Senger of the Edmonton Journal reported these interesting facts: “The new Alberta Health Services superboard will begin its budget year debt-free thanks to a $97-million bailout from the province plus an additional $80 million to cover startup costs.”
This story appeared under the hopeful headline, “$97M cash injection cures Alta. health board deficits.”
Ms. Senger’s story quoted Health Minister Ron Liepert as follows: “We felt very strongly that it was important to get the new health board off on the right foot…”
The story went on: “The $97 million will pay down any existing deficits among the nine former health boards. Capital Health had previously estimated its deficit at $20 million to $30 million, while the Calgary Health Region had said its red ink approached $100 million. The other $80 million announced by Liepert will cover ‘transitional funding’ as the health regions are replaced by a single board. It will pay for severance packages and operational startup costs, such as merging different IT systems into a single network, Liepert said. He said he could not say whether the government would recoup the $80 million in future savings, but noted that having fewer chief executive officers would save money.”
Click here to read the entire story. My, what a hopeful time that was!
Remember those facts when you consider the cause and nature of the $1.3-billion Alberta Health Services deficit that now, we are told, requires multi-million-dollar payouts to departing executives, plus the closing of mental health beds, acute care beds and God knows what other kinds of beds in the days and weeks ahead.
If Alberta Health Services started business “on the right foot,” debt free in August 2008 after elimination of a considerably smaller deficit, it would seem the current huge deficit was run up as a result of the clumsy and needless amalgamation of our nine regionally responsive health regions, which appears to have occurred for political and not practical reasons.
Remember this when the same characters who created this giant deficit tell us they now know the only possible solutions to Alberta’s health care funding woes.