Gateway Gazette

NDP Health Minister Chooses Risky Ideology Over Patient Care

 

Drew Barnes - Wildrose
Drew Barnes, Wildrose MLA

Recently, NDP Health Minister Sarah Hoffman ripped up a $3 billion contract for lab services impacting health care for Edmonton and northern Alberta.

Sadly, her reason had nothing to do with whether or not this was the best path to provide quality care for patients, but rather, on ideology.

The government spent significant time and millions of dollars preparing and tendering the contract. And while there was no doubt the request for tender was flawed and involved further mass-centralization of services, we now have no sustainable path forward.

Wildrose looked into the matter further and obtained Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) documents under freedom of information laws that say the current provider, DynaLife, will likely lose its current lab testing facilities by 2017. In one document, a health official warns “In the absence of a facility, quality of services and patient safety could be compromised.”

The documents we received were heavily redacted. A lot of critical information was blacked out to hide the details of what the true costs and risks of going back to the drawing board on lab services will be for Albertans.

But the documents clearly show that a thorough review of lab services had already been conducted, and that the safety of patients is at immediate risk given the fact that the current arrangement with DynaLife will not be extended past 2017.

Sadly, it appears the NDP health minister is willing to let patient safety fall by the wayside, in favour of ideology that rejects private delivery of public services out-of-hand. Provided we can maintain proper oversight of public dollars, why should we reject certain delivery models if they can provide quality service at a sustainable cost?

Currently, the largest private provider of public health services in the province are doctors. If you have a family doctor, it’s likely that this new policy from the government will result in a radical overhaul in how their services are delivered.

There are also no shortage of private companies that provide services across the board in our health care system. Some of these models work, some don’t, but if we reflexively shut out private operators, it will mean higher costs across the board, and the increased centralization of services away from local communities and into the hands of an unresponsive bureaucracy.

To the matter at hand, AHS researched this issue for four years using our tax dollars and they said that a complete public lab system wasn’t in the best interest of patients.

The NDP is ignoring the evidence. Now, back at square one and with no plan B, Minister Hoffman will risk depriving Albertans in north and central Alberta of adequate lab services.

I’ve called on the Minister to release a complete, unedited version of the documents previously mentioned. If not for me, the Minister owes it to Albertans to open up the redacted documents, so patients can see for themselves the type of risk the NDP has exposed them to.

When the Minister announced she was squashing this deal, she said the proposed private delivery model would have been a “risky experiment,” but that simply wasn’t factual. The real risk, according to the government’s own analysis, is putting lab service delivery in the hands of government bureaucrats who do not have a plan to accomplish this.

Minister Hoffman’s remarks are at best contradictory and at worst an intentional effort to mislead the public.

Politicians who blind themselves with ideology are doing a disservice to voters, who entrust them to act in their best interest each and every day.

Minister Hoffman has let Albertans down, and I look forward on getting some clear answers from her in the fall.

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

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