Brooks-MH byelection candidates offer would-be solutions to health-care issues

Each of the four candidates present at the Brooks and District Chamber of Commerce Forum on Wednesday evening received five minutes to discuss health care issues.

United Conservative leader Danielle Smith says centralization doesn’t work.

“COVID didn’t break the system but made us realize the system was already broken.”

She says an official administrator will be installed by the UCP as the head of Alberta Health Services, with the current board stepping aside.

Smith wants an efficient way of moving patients through hospitals, such as attaching walk-in clinics to hospitals to prevent ERs being utilized for non-urgent care. Using unused operating rooms in hospitals and having a flexible approach to proposals made by surgical teams. The primary care model needs to be updated and a collective approach used by family doctors, she says. A different payment system would allow nurse practitioners, physiotherapists and dieticians to be hired providing each patient with a medical home.

Alberta Party leader Barry Morishita believes the AHS board should be made up of professionals, people who understand what it’s like to deliver at the front lines. He wants a return to relying on assets in the community and investigating different pilot projects for transporting patients, such Handi-Buses.

He wants partnerships with housing to provide long-term care and assisted living. There are municipality-owned foundations to provide extra services but money for staff is needed. There needs to be adequate funding of doctors and nurses and a new triage model in hospitals. Mental health supports and wellness needs to be boosted to prevent further drain on acute care system.

“A multitude of things that we need to move on but we can do it in incremental ways in communities that have the strengths and the purpose to move forward in their areas and decentralizing would help a lot there,” Morishita said

Independence Party of Alberta candidate Bob Blayone said, “Let’s be honest, we are in a crisis in health care.”

A resident of Peace River, Blayone talked extensively about northern Alberta, how ambulances travel from hospital to hospital to find a bed.

“$23 billion into AHS, the budgetary spending doesn’t add up. Where is the money going?”

Blayone wants the the College of Physicians and Surgeons dissolved and its control ended.

Gwendoline Dirk, NDP candidate, stated frontline workers are so important but in a state of complete crisis.

“The truth is, as soon as the UCP got into power, they got into a fight with doctors. The doctors weren’t happy and continued to argue with the government, and what did they do? They ripped up their contract.

“Students are choosing to do residencies in other provinces because they don’t see a future in Alberta, and Danielle Smith is part of the UCP.”

Dirk believes tearing down AHS will cause more chaos. Change needs to happen but in a different way. She also discussed the ER problem and says a triage system would be great, but essentially it comes down to more frontline workers. Dirk also said the 89-day contract to EMS drivers forced on them by the UCP needs to be changed to give them long-term stability in their jobs.

SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News