Medicare has many friends in Pincher Creek
Posted By Jocelyn Mercer
Posted 3 days ago
By Jocelyn Mercer
Around 100 people, mostly seniors, turned out for a public forum on the state of public health care, in Pincher Creek last Wednesday.
David Eggen, executive director of Friends of Medicare, was in the community as part of a provincial tour, to speak on the privatization of health care in Alberta.
Eggen is concerned that the provincial government is taking steps to slowly privatize public health care, making it more inaccessible to people on fixed incomes.
“We’re not opposed to change. We know that nothing good ever stays the same,” said Eggen. However, he said, changes currently proposed by the provincial government were putting public health care at risk.
Eggen says the dissolution of regional health boards around the province to make way for one super board has led to a lot of changes within Alberta’s health care system.
“It’s a question of integrity, it’s a question of honesty,” said Eggen.
He points to recent claims from the Super board’s chief administrative officer and provincial health minister that the nursing shortage is over.
“We all know the nursing shortage in Alberta is not over. It’s not over in Canada,” says Eggen.
He says he’s also concerned about the recent dismissal of outspoken Fort McMurray MLA Guy Boutilier. Eggen says he was kicked out of caucus for being too vocal with his concerns over funding delays for a long-term care facility in Fort McMurray.
Seniors health care is a growing issue in the province, says Eggen, particularly in rural areas.
“Pincher Creek has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the first locations to remove its long-term care facility,” he said.
Eggen believes, that long-term care for seniors should be provided through health care, not in private facilities.
“There’s no difference between a senior in need of long-term care and someone who’s broken their leg,” said, referring to the fact that both should be financed by the Canadian health care system.
Private long-term care facilities are subject to less regulation and can charge patients more, says Eggen.
“They’re trying to move people out of the public facility into the private facility. There’s no more public long-term care facilities in Pincher Creek,” he said.
Another major concern of Eggens and the Friends of Medicare is the provincial mandate to cut $1.1 billion from the health care budget.
“We have to remember the basic idea of why public health care was created in the first place. It was created and conceived in a time of great poverty,” he said.
So despite Alberta’s prosperity, he says, government is still dragging its feet over spending.
What’s alarming for Eggen is that if Alberta proceeds down the privatization route, health care will end up costing people more.
Currently the province spends between four and six per cent of Gross Domestic Product on health care. The US, with private health care spends considerably more at 16.5 per cent of GDP.
Private health care costs more, is less equal and is badly regulated, argues Eggen.
“Our membership has never been larger,” said Eggen of the Friends of Medicare organization, as he urged Pincher Creek residents to start petitioning their MLAs to stop the province’s cutbacks on health care.
“The most valuable thing you own, besides your house maybe, is your health care card,” he added.