Do you remember Carlos Castaneda, the American anthropologist who started his career writing factual accounts on Mesoamerican shamanism and ended it writing fictional stories infused with magical realism? Stelmach’s year-ender interviews with the media indicate that he’s going down the same mystical path as poor dear Carlos. Stelmach is holding fast to his belief that there is no health care crisis and is confident that he and the PC’s will weather this storm. In his view no other party can compete with the PC’s proven results when it comes to overseeing health care (or the economy for that matter). Stelmach says the PC’s “…have a very good track record. This is a party that has had the trust and confidence of Albertans for 40 years…”; furthermore only the PC’s can be trusted to manage Alberta’s health care system. Brave words, but not a view that is shared by others.
David Taras, a political analyst, university professor and author, describes the health care system as “collapsing”. This is more than an opinion, it’s a fact. Consider a very simple metric: the number of beds per population. Canada has 3 beds per 1000 Canadians. This ranks Canada 26th out of 30 countries in the OECD, the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development – a group of countries which includes Australia, the US, the UK, most of Europe and South America. In 1995 Alberta had 1 bed for 400 people and today, as a result of the Tories aggressive cost reduction campaign, Alberta has 1 bed per 515 people—about 50% fewer beds than the rest of Canada. Does that sound like a “very good track record” to you?
But not to worry—Stelmach and Zwozdesky have a plan to restore public confidence. They’ve created an 8 minute video reassuring Albertans that there is no crisis and explaining why Dr Sherman was booted out of caucus. The video was supposed to be posted on the PC Party website last week. No need to go looking for it, it’s been delayed due to “technical difficulties”. No doubt the same “technical difficulties” that sidelined the emergency surge protocol for 18 months and the 5 year health care plan for 5 months.
I don’t know about you, but 8 magical minutes created by the PC spindoctors won’t do a thing to restore my confidence. Only a clear statement of accountability backed up by metrics—where we are today and where we expect to be in the future—together with a concrete action plan will do that. It’s either that or a handful of Castaneda’s magic mushrooms.
I loved the magic mushroom anology as it might help explain why the PC’s think there is no crisis and secondly they are best able to handle health care because of their 40 year track record. However, I find a huge disconnect between what has been promised over the years and what has actually appeared on the ground. By way of example when 300 beds were closed in 2009, Duckett said in a CTV interview the beds would be available if needed for a week or a year at any time in the future. However, at the end of 2010 the excuse given for emergency room backups was that there were not enough beds and others need to be sent home even earlier. There have been no comments about bringing those beds back on stream. It appears that government is somehow assuming that if they say something, it is real and therefore all is well in the land of plenty. I would hope that it is magic mushrooms producing that level of confidence otherwise we would have to assume that government is attempting to mislead us or worse still, just lying to us. As for the eight minute video, I expect it to be just like all the other press releases…more promises and no actual change.
You have started to build a good data base which will help us laymen determine whether it is the magic mushrooms talking. I note Canada does not rank very high in one of your earlier blogs and that Alberta did not reach Canadian averages. I would be interested in seeing where Alberta lands on the ranking globally as it might be quite embarrassing for such a rich region. However, it appears difficult to obtain hard numbers such as the total number of acute care beds (in full time use and not mothballed), along with some other simple statistics such as physicans per 1000, or nurses per 1000. Official Alberta web sites do not have such numbers (at least I could not find any citations) and especially do not have historical numbers that we could use to determine just how well the government has done over the past 40 years as they have claimed.
It appears we, as Albertans, have a couple of choices. We can continue to believe that political statements equate to doing something real, (and perhaps get mushrooms covered under an enhanced drug plan), or we can start building an understanding of reality and challenge our politicans to truly introduce meaningful improvements to our health system.
Roy, interesting comment with respect to the 300 beds which vanished in 2009 never to be seen again despite Dr Duckett’s promise to the contrary. That appears to be the Conservative’s modus operandi–say it and the people will think you’ve done it. I checked the OECD website and can confirm that if Alberta were a member country with 1 bed per 515 people or to use the OECD metric, 2 beds per 1000 people, it would be just ahead of Turkey with 2.3 beds per 1000 and Mexico with 1.7 beds per 1000. Pass the magic mushrooms please.