Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Alberta's Health Board disaster

Ten months ago the government of Alberta abolished the regional Health boards and replaced them with one centralized superboard. The Calgary Herald finally notices what a complete disaster this has been.

In 10 short months, the deterioration of Calgarians' health care has been precipitous.The superboard's own statistics show a deepening crisis at Calgary hospitals.

Alberta Health Services indicates 50 per cent more local patients are waiting for placement in long-term care, while those sleeping in hospital corridors because of bed shortages is up 23 per cent. The waiting lists for surgeries have grown by 18 per cent in the past year and a half.And emergency wait times have jumped well past appropriate levels, increasing on average by 30 per cent to 16.6 hours to get admitted.

This is a far cry from the improved quality the superboard was tasked with delivering.

Of course improving healthcare was never the point, getting rid of multiple fractious boards who had a distressing tendency of publicly criticizing the government's priorities and parsimony with funding was. The current leader of the Alberta Liberals David Swann, first rose to prominence as the medical officer for the Palliser Health Region where he publically criticized the province for ignoring the health consequences of runaway development and publicly endorsed the Kyoto Accord. He was fired and then offered his job back after public outrage. Instead he went into politics to become a long term thorn in the government's side.

Alberta has a nasty little democratic deficit that the government publicly abhors and privately exults over. After 40 odd years as a one party state the Tories have concluded that everything is much nicer if Albertans just shut up and do what they are told. Centralizing many regional health boards down to one - that just gave it's board members a 25% raise - makes benign neglect that much easier.

The Herald knows all this, which makes questions like this deliberately disingenuous:
The question has to be asked:Why has the province gone down this road, reversing a system that was working? The Alberta model was a success, it's been copied by other provinces and has received international recognition. Ironically, the Calgary Health Region is the star of a new book, High Performing Healthcare Systems--Delivering Quality by Design. The CHR--now a non-entity--was one of seven organizations from around the world chosen as an example of excellence in health care, delivering quality through a mix of good incentives, clear goals and accountability. All of this is now gone.
Centralizing the regional healthboards was never about improving outcomes, it was about neutralizing noisy regional concerns with a decaying system.

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