Alberta’s Health Minister Adriana LaGrange has called for a fundamental change in the province’s health care system, admitting the current model was “not working.”
LaGrange’s comments come at a critical juncture as the government prepares to introduce a comprehensive two-year plan to revamp Alberta Health Services (AHS).
“What’s happening right now is not working, so we are committed to improving the system,” LaGrange said in the legislature.
“I’m excited about what we are bringing forward that will actually refocus the system [and] empower the workforce.”
In response to the proposed plans, Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley criticized LaGrange and the UCP government during question period this week.
“The Premier talks about disaggregation, but all Albertans hear is boondoggle and chaos,” said Notley.
LaGrange responded, saying she had gone across the province and heard from Albertans.
“They’re wanting change. We’re going to give it to them,” said LaGrange.
These changes arrive on the heels of the decision to outsource community lab testing to the private company, Dynalife, which led to increased wait times.
“After this lab fiasco, this government must know they have zero credibility with Albertans,” said Notley.
Addressing these concerns, LaGrange emphasized the government’s responsive measures.
“Yes, the lab delays were unacceptable… We acted quickly, and we have stabilized the lab service delivery across this province,” said LaGrange.
LaGrange pointed to the influx of new medical professionals in Alberta, and said that there’s more to come.
“The CPSA, the College of Physicians & Surgeons, just announced that 255 physicians have registered to practice in Alberta just in the last four months,” LaGrange declared.
Also, 248 physicians and surgeons chose to remain in Alberta after completing their training, she added.
As the province moves towards health care system reform, LaGrange has clarified the government’s stance against privatization and its adherence to the Canada Health Act.
“Albertans do not and will not pay out of pocket for insured health services such as seeing a family doctor or a hospital visit,” said LaGrange.
LaGrange added that her department is investigating any clinic that has a membership component to their services and may be in violation of the rules.
“The Canada Health Act is clear, and we will absolutely enforce it. We are firmly committed to public health care in Alberta,” said LaGrange.
Premier Smith has been vocal about the need for AHS to improve its delivery of hospital and acute care, seeking to implement reforms that will disentangle the complexities of the current system.
Smith’s plans involve an 18-month to two-year timeframe to refocus AHS on hospital and acute care, while other services, such as primary care and mental health, may be delegated elsewhere.
Smith said this process is called “disaggregating.”
“Alberta Health Services is going to continue operating our acute-care facilities, and we’re going to ask them to do a better job at it,” said Smith.
Smith said that the focus will be on optimizing the use of each facility. She added that local decision-making and regional coordination will be optimized as well.
In recent remarks, the president of the Alberta Medical Association, Dr. Paul Parks, said physicians are watching carefully what the province will be proposing, according to CBC.
Dr. Parks, who practices as an emergency room physician, noted that even minor adjustments can have profound effects in an integrated system like health care. According to Dr. Parks, whatever the government plans to do, it’s critical that they listen to physicians.