It would be easy to say Tommy Douglas would be horrified at what is going on in health care, pandemic or no pandemic, the times are a changing in health. 

For many people, we are relatively healthy. We go through life without having anything major health wise. Those are the fortunate ones.

But at some point, the clock will strike midnight and you will need major medical assistance, whether it is illness, disease or deal with a major injury. 

There needs to be initial diagnosis made and if specialists are needed then you receive treatment. This is all very expensive. 

Wouldn’t you just know it? The Alberta provincial government wanted to reduce the costs of the health care system by slashing the number of nurses and cutting the amount of money doctors earn by passing Bill 21 and in essence unilaterally terminating the contract between the Alberta Medical Association and Alberta Health… during the middle of a massive global pandemic. 

One might think that is to put it mildly questionable but in terms of negotiations and contracts errr… unilaterally dealing with a union, this is a great time to do it. You are forcing the doctors to stay. They have taken the Hippocratic Oath and they are not going to run out on people who are suffering with the province/country/ world watching people die. Buys time for negotiations. Gauge the public mood. Test the pollsters, use your massive social media staff to find out what is going on or if need be influence those who are negative to your plans. 

After following the recommendations of an Ernst & Young report (cost: $2 million), there was also talk of privatizing a lot of services like home care and laundry for example not to mention selling off long term care spaces to the private sector.

Whether you agree or not, the government is looking at at least partially privatizing what it can and reducing government costs in health which are unarguably the biggest cut of the provincial budget. 

As a non medical professional, it definitely has been an attack at the unorthodox time. Doctors have been represented by unions but as individuals, from experience they normally are not politically public people partially because they don’t have time and partially because they don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them. Apparently that’s out the window now. Prairie Post talked to Dr. Samantha Myre about changes and what the physicians in her clinic in Pincher Creek were going to do at the start of May.

Now, in a recent letter to Alberta Health made public last week, ten MD’s from Taber, including two anesthesiaologists, co-signed a recent letter which outlined their concerns.

In it is reads: “On February 21, Minister Shandro enacted Bill 21 and terminated our agreement with the AMA. Physicians in Alberta were, suddenly and completely, shut out of critical decision-making with respect to allocation of physician payment and their implications on health care policy. Shortly thereafter, government announced a new “Physician Funding Framework” (implemented on April 1, 2020), which is a collection of drastic changes to physician funding. This was widely recognized among physicians as unfairly targeting rural family physicians due to their unique work which spans multiple healthcare settings (Clinic and Hospital; Emergency, admitted patients, obstetrics and long-term care). The minister denies any reductions to overall physician funding, but make no mistake, these are definitely “cuts” to rural health care funding and family physicians…

It continued…”Considering these concerning announcements, rural health care in this province appeared to be on the verge of collapse. The Health Minister clearly felt the heat. In an announcement on April 24, 2020, he repealed some of his previous changes to rural physician funding. He referred to this as an “$81 million investment to rural health care” and “significant investments to protect rural physician recruitment & retention”. That is akin to a bank robber returning a portion of the money he has stolen and then calling it a charitable donation to the bank. A careful examination of Mr. Shandro’s announcements shows that rural allocation is not back to its previous level, and indeed, some rural physicians have been subjected to additional new cuts through fine-print changes to the Rural, Remote, Northern Program – a program implemented to increase recruitment and retention of physicians to our rural towns.”

Damning. 

While it seems rather ludicrous to attack the medical sector during a time when people need nurses, doctors and hospitals the most, what is this really all about?

Vain political pride and arrogance?  During a time when Chief Medical Officer the unflappable Dr. Deena Hinshaw becomes a folk hero with her calm demeanour and non nonsense attitude towards overall provincial health, the premier has received criticism on wedging in on press conferences and reporting information which should come from somebody from medicine or even that uncomfortably looking presser where Kenney explains the launching of Phase 1 of the re-opening of Alberta with Hinshaw sitting off to the side as some sort of legitimacy prop. “The government is in charge of the situation economically, and those worried about the health ramifications, don’t worry because our Chief Medical Officer is sitting here with me so it must be okay.” Cringe.

Money? Remember when Canadians used to mock the United States for their debt? Now in a media report May 12, Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux said it's "not unthinkable" that Canada’s debt could go to $1 trillion during this fiscal year. 

No, apparently there’s money to be spent if you REALLY want to dish it out…

The financial numbers are staggering yes, but before Kenney decides to decimate rural doctors and the rural areas, he has to remember what the most important thing is to each individual human: health. It seems hypocritical and shortsightedly ironic that the government is attacking the very thing you are depending on to ensure the economy will function in the future. 

All anyone was talking about initially in the early winter was the alarming numbers in China, then Italy, then the United States, Spain etc.; how is Canadian society going to recover health wise… the seniors dying in long term care centres. No one was talking about money and how it was getting paid for…it was just done. 

Yes, it is great to cut costs when you can, save when you can but because of the money spent on propping up the business and energy sectors is important yes but that one time you really need a doctor or a nurse to look after in the hospital and it isn’t available… 

No, there aren’t emergencies all the time. No, talking with a medical professional isn’t a daily routine for most people. However, for some it is. For others, dealing with medical professionals daily is life and death. How much money is a life worth to those in the political ivory tower?

To see a government play a dangerous game gambling on people’s health like they do in the United States where American health care is great as long as you don’t get sick. It is possible we have yet to see the true ugliness of 2020.

Maybe it is all about whose Kool-Aid you are willing to drink? The government’s or the medical community’s? 

Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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