Notley says suggestions in MacKinnon Report will 'undermine quality of life' of seniors

NDP opposition Leader, Rachel Notley wants to know the UCP's plan for senior health funding.

She held a press conference at the Kerby Centre in Calgary on Friday to discuss the MacKinnon Report and its  suggestions that spending in Alberta should be more closely aligned with what's spent in British Columbia.

However, Notley said seniors in British Columbia receive less support for medication.

"On average, they spend 25 per cent more out of pocket. That gap is larger for those who are sicker," said Notley.

Stéphanie Rousseau/CBC

She said the Canadian Medical Association reported Alberta currently outperforms B.C. in terms of seniors' care, and that twice as many B.C. seniors in long-term care report experiencing pain than do those in Alberta. 

"Cutting public funding for medications will mean more low-and middle-income seniors are forced to forgo their prescription drugs," said Notley. "That seriously hurts their health, undermines their quality of life and ultimately forces them to seek medical care in institutions rather than in their own homes."

Notley said she doesn't want Premier Jason Kenney to move forward with "what appears to be recommended in the blue ribbon (report)," and that the NDP will fight the UCP to make sure that seniors care in Alberta is maintained or improved. 

"We know that the costs of drugs go up every year, so we can not be downloading that cost onto the backs of our senior citizens," she said. "When people are forced to pay more for their own medications, they don't take them regularly and then they end up getting sicker."

Steve Buick, Press Secretary to the Minister of Health, said Notley's comments were nothing more than fear mongering.

"The NDP statement is nonsense," He told CBC in an emailed statement. "We campaigned on our Health Care Guarantee to maintain or increase health spending and we stand by it."

The MacKinnon panel recommended moving toward average health spending in the three biggest provinces, and the UCP agrees with that recommendation, Buick said, adding that the UCP plans to maintain health spending — not cut it.

"The NDP have nothing useful to say so they're reduced to fear-mongering by "calling on us" to do what we said we'll do, as if there were some doubt," he wrote. "We've reiterated our commitment on health spending in the media and the legislature from the day we were elected."

Alanna Hargan, director and Calgary chair for Seniors United Now, said she's also concerned about the recommendations from the MacKinnon Report, especially with how it will affect vulnerable and low-income seniors.

"I'm here today simply to ask that our government does not leave people behind," Hargan said at the press conference. 

"If the premier and his government promised to maintain and increase support for seniors, [it's] their word and their promise."