Changes to our Health System Desperately Needed


If there’s one word on everyone’s mind following the May 5 election, it’s change.

Albertans spoke loudly and clearly at the voting booths that they wanted their elected representatives to go to work on reforming a political system that had grown stagnant in its ideas, unresponsive in its delivery of public services and unaccountable to the citizens it should serve.

The Legislature certainly has a much different look these days. For my part, I am proud to be part of a Wildrose team that the voters trusted with an expanded role as Official Opposition. We are honoured to perform this duty, and will work to ensure the best possible governance for this province.

In my new role as the Wildrose Shadow Minister for Health, I will be working to see that the change voters want from their government extends to a health care system that so many feel is on the wrong track.

While Albertans are supportive of a health system that provides service for all, they expect to see quality results for their tax-dollars spent.

The system costs more and more each year – inflating at a rate higher than annual inflation plus population growth – while producing mediocre results. Alberta is not a Canadian leader in health care despite our second-highest per capita spending. We owe it to Albertans to do better.

Given the NDP’s enthusiasm for change on the campaign trail, I was disappointed to learn that they will be scrapping a proposed move towards decentralization and enhanced local decision-making. We have all heard at the doorsteps and at public forums about how badly the system needs to be changed and improved. More of the same is not the solution.

I believe the move toward centralized health care, brought in by previous administrations approximately seven years ago, has seen our poor trends in health care accelerate. The system has been become top-heavy, inefficient, and bloated with too many managers and too many layers of bureaucracy.

Many residents of rural Alberta have seen the inefficiencies of centralization firsthand. I’m sure that almost everybody could cite an example of a baffling health decision in his or her community – the type of decision made by a centralized bureaucracy far away from the influence of the local residents affected.

And many of us in rural communities and smaller cities have seen local services suffer under the weight of a top-heavy, centralized system that no longer seems accountable to our needs or concerns.

Wildrose believes nobody is more equipped or better understands local priorities like the people closest to the ground: the local residents, the front-line workers and local decision-makers.

It takes boldness to make big changes, and the voters were certainly bold in casting their ballots on May 5. Why not act with the same boldness to fix an ailing health system that has let patients and families down for too long? This is what the voters have tasked us to do.

Over the coming months and years, I will be advocating for the empowerment of front-line workers and communities to find efficiencies in the system. I will be will seeking creative ways to take strain off of our acute care and ambulance services. I will challenge this government to create a health system that actually puts patients at the centre, because a truly responsive system is one that recognizes the value of the patient’s time and strives not to waste it.

They say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. We have an opportunity now to prove that wrong. We have the opportunity to do things differently and follow up the change we made to our government with real, constructive change to our health services.

Drew Barnes is the MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat and Wildrose Shadow Minister for Health.