I just hate to agree with Danielle Smith.
Regular readers of this blog will understand why I’m uncomfortable finding myself on the same side of any issue as the leader of the Wildrose Party, who is a right-wing fundamentalist whose policy notions would do untold harm to our province if she ever had an opportunity to implement them.
But on the issue of staffing the giant new hospital being built in Calgary’s southeast corner, a topic on which she extemporized at a $325-per-plate Wildrose Party fund-raiser last week, Ms. Smith’s analysis was bang on.
The topic came up during a question-and-answer period after lacklustre speech, in which she is said to have been assisted a little by the studiously neutral QR77 radio host Dave Rutherford lobbing softball questions at her. Ms. Smith suggested poor planning about staffing at the so-called South Health Campus will cause wards to be closed at other Calgary hospitals in the near future when the facility opens.
“I think we are in big trouble with the South Calgary hospital,” Ms. Smith said, according to the Calgary Sun’s account of the event. “I think what’s going to happen with the South Calgary hospital, they are going to be closing down wings and operating rooms of existing hospitals to be able to move staff around.”
She added: “I think Calgarians had reason to expect there was going to be an increase in capacity, an increase in beds, an increase in operating rooms … and ultimately a reduction in waiting lists and I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Sad to say, it’s likely all too true.
Thanks to the catastrophic health-care policies of the Ralph Klein Government, which drove health care professionals out of the province and reduced available space in training programs for new ones, there’s still a shortage of all kinds of health professionals in this province that even wholesale raiding of South Africa can’t fix.
No doubt when the hospital starts to open next spring it will be officially named the Ralph Klein General Hospital in the great Alberta tradition of naming enormously expensive public health facilities after people who tried to privatize our public health care system. (Example: Edmonton’s Mazankowski Heart Institute, named for Conservative-Reform-Alliance Party stalwart Don Mazankowski, the author of a pro-privatization, pro-delisting report commissioned by Mr. Klein.)
Also thanks in part to the bumbling, confusion and wild changes of course under former Progressive Conservative premier Ed Stelmach’s government, this serious problem persists – although at least Mr. Stelmach seemed to come to his senses when he moved the eager privatizer Ron Liepert out of the health ministry in response to a general public rebellion.
Now, given the mixed signals being sent by PC Premier Alison Redford – on one hand, a promise to preserve public health care, on the other the restoration of Mr. Liepert to arguably the most important post in cabinet and the appointment of another friend of privatization, Fred Horne, to the health portfolio – it is far from clear what if anything the government intends to do.
There ends any agreement with Ms. Smith and her remaining hard-right Wildrose loyalists, of course.
After all, her policy prescription for solving the health professional shortage will be essentially the same as Mr. Klein’s, Mr. Mazankowski’s, Mr. Liepert’s, Mr. Horne’s and all the rest of them – more privatization, more market fundamentalism, two tiers, three tiers, and more tiers. And more tears, too, for those of us who can’t afford treatment in the Wildrose Party’s Americanized dream economy.
Notwithstanding the Wildrose Party’s care not to appear to advocate private health care, Ms. Smith hinted at this in her Q&A, in the words of the Sun’s reporter: “To deal with an acute shortage of nurses and doctors, she said the Wildrose Party believes in going back to a market-based approach to graduating enough of them to meet the needs of the population and ensuring they stay in the province.”
If you think about it, it would take state intervention, not the market, to solve both those problems. But with the very real shortage of health professionals, identified by Smith, there’s not much doubt that she’s right about what will happen when the $3-billion-plus south Calgary hospital goes on stream, whatever it’s called.
But “market-based solutions” are not what is needed to fix it.
This post also appears on Rabble.ca.