In health care, bigger may be better – Editorial

We have been told that in the new session of the provincial legislature, which convened on Monday, Oct. 25, the agenda will be topped by healthcare legislation, again.

It was less than three years ago, in May 2008, that the government, then newly re-elected, introduced a major overhaul of the healthcare system, abolished health regions, unified administrative processes for some services, including the emergency services and hired a highly paid chief executive from Australia to manage the process of looking after Alberta’s population.

At the time of the dissolution, the healthcare system in place was only a few years old.

Now, just about when the dust is settling after the latest reorganization, we are being prepared for another shake-up.

This time, the word is that the government is determined to uphold the principle of “putting the people first” and will base the new bill on 15 recommendations compiled by the feedback given by Albertans (which Albertans-who knows).

Immediately after the government announced its intentions to legislate anew, the Wildrose Alliance stepped up the rhetoric saying what was needed was action, not so much legislation.

And the Alliance was right when they said the amalgamated administrative structure failed to shorten wait times, hire more family doctors and recruit staff to make hospitals function efficiently.

Is it possible that the problem is not only in Alberta?

Would the federal and provincial governments be better advised to take a long, careful look together at Canada’s healthcare practices and then lay out a vision and develop policies to improve the provision of services to the population?

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s annual report on national health budget, this year a total $183.1 billion is being spent, which is equivalent to $5,452 per person, a $241 increase as compared to last year.

That is a lot of money, and one report said if Canada’s health care establishment were a business, it would have been placed among the top portion of the Fortune 500 list of companies.

Let’s face it, if so much money is being disbursed through a public system, it is inevitable that waste and abuse are taking place, possibly more than we can even dream of.

But, that is not to say that health care system should be privatized.

What is needed, and admittedly it is difficult, is the establishment of an efficiently functioning system and the guidelines for such a system may be better structured at a federal level than provincial.

— Mustafa Eric