A plan for stronger healthcare in Alberta

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed a capacity crisis in Alberta’s health care system.

We have one of the best-funded systems in Canada and yet, throughout the pandemic, our system was on the brink of collapse.

Alberta can and should do better.

1. Decentralize AHS and keep executives accountable

 

As I travel across Alberta, I continually hear how overly centralized decision-making has frustrated and disengaged our front-line health professionals. As Premier, I would decentralize decision-making to empower and engage front-line workers. It's critical to respect front-line workers which is why I'll provide conscience rights protection for healthcare workers and institutions in our province mirroring Manitoba's Bill 34.
 
I will also immediately undertake a review of AHS senior management roles to reduce corporate back office roles and eliminate duplicative management practices. 

 

2. Expand capacity across the system

Numerous actions are needed to address the lack of capacity in the health care system, especially in ICUs, Ambulance service, and rural communities. My proposed reforms include:

A. Appoint an Associate Minister for Health Capacity

As Finance Minister I benefited greatly from having an Associate Minister for Red Tape Reduction laser focused on reducing the regulatory burden on Albertans to unleash productivity and attract investment.

The Health budget is nearly half of provincial spending, and I believe the capacity crisis is so acute and complex that we need to create a similar role, at least temporarily, to zero in on expanding capacity.

 

B. Expand and streamline Credentialing for Health Care Workers

Given the capacity crisis we face, it’s so frustrating to know how many foreign-trained Albertans would love to work in the health system but can’t get certified. I will press the certification bodies to immediately review their processes to optimize the use of trained talent already in the province while ensuring professional care.

Nurse Practitioners can also provide excellent care in many settings without needing a Physician. We need to adjust our model to make better use of their capacity to help Albertans.

 

C. Improve Incentives for Rural Health Care Practitioners

While staffing in our cities fell short during the pandemic, rural shortages are a chronic problem. We will develop the right incentives to ensure all Albertans can access effective care wherever they live.

In particular, we will develop a rural obstetrical plan to ensure that labour and delivery services are available to rural women and their families throughout Alberta.

 

D. Rural Health Care Facility Fund

COVID-19 also exposed a disparity between the care Albertans in urban settings receive, and the care received in rural and remote areas. I will create a capital fund of at least $50M annually dedicated to revitalizing neglected rural health care facilities.

Albertans across the province deserve to have access to high-quality care where and when they need it.

 

E. Make better use of paramedics and ambulances

Wait times for Ambulances across Alberta have grown steadily and this is unacceptable. In addition to considering decentralization of dispatch, I will implement the 2 policies passed by UCP members to:

  • improve Emergency Medical Services (EMS) by expanding their scope of practice to permit EMS to assess and treat non-emergency situations on site without needing to transfer to Emergency.
  • develop triage processes that prioritize the hand-off from the paramedics to Emergency Department staff without delay to release and return paramedics and ambulances back into service

 

F. Facilitate out-of-province procedures until capacity is adequate.

Too often, desperate Albertans on waiting lists are forced to seek care elsewhere to relieve their suffering, usually with little to no coverage or assistance from Alberta Health.

Until we build adequate capacity, for appropriate surgeries and procedures for which unacceptable wait times exist I would set up reciprocal agreements with other provinces and US health care providers. This would enable Albertans to receive specific surgeries and procedures quicker and have them billed directly to Alberta Health up to the cost of those same procedures if delivered in Alberta. Any additional charge would be borne by the Albertan choosing to get quicker treatment out of province. This plan would remain in place until Alberta’s wait times are acceptable.

 

3. Support Diverse Delivery Options

If we want to maintain good care for Albertans as our population ages, we cannot get sidetracked by public/private debates. We need to look at all options - especially ones other provinces are implementing - that provide efficient, high-quality, and fiscally sustainable health care to Albertans.

 


 

I believe this is a strong, credible plan to improve healthcare for Albertans across the province.

Join me as we build a better Alberta for today and the next generation.