Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Alberta Healthcare: Here we go again

Yet again Albertans have a reactionary right winger eager to start cutting away at health spending in Alberta, another dull eyed incurious ideologue who mistakes casual policy sadism for political toughness.

Ron Liepert, Alberta's mince-no-words health minister, tells the Sun the province won't keep doling out dough for all the medical services it now covers and is working on what's in and what's out and what will have to be covered by private insurance.

"The reality of it is, with a six percent budget increase for Alberta Health Services, we can no longer cover everything we've been covering. You're going to see a continued movement towards publicly-funded health care not being everything for everyone," says Ron, who wants "to cover the necessary essentials."

"We, 3.5 million Albertans, can't afford to cover what we've got right now."

"We've got to have a more clear definition of what the basic health-care system covers and what it shouldn't cover. We've got to be more clear on what we're providing. You break your leg, we should be looking after you. You want to go get physiotherapy, maybe you should be on your own."

I had a sleazy manager once who loved the phrase 'The reality is,' he invariably used it when he was lying through his teeth, a verbal tick I've come to notice more and more.

Never mind if all the evidence shows that funding physiotherapy saves the system from the long term costs from injuries and aggravation of injuries that the lack of decent physiotherapy can cause. We have to justify blowing billions on phony carbon sequestration technology somehow. We all have to do our parts to ensure that the oil and gas companies can make the maximum profit with the minimum participation in the social contract possible.

The new health superboard running the medical system will also have to come up with a plan to pay down $500 million or so they're in the red. He figures keeping the board to a 6% hike in their budget will force some "real discipline" on their spending and "that's always a good thing."

A 6% hike in their budget, but a 25% in the board's salaries, now how will we pay for those huge executive raises?

Rockin' Ron says this is the "test year" to see efficiencies in the health system. He thinks the contract with nurses, up in March 2010, is a "horrible" deal and wants more nurses working full-time to cut heavy overtime costs. He doesn't mind pushing for changes even if it "creates some angst among the union leadership."

"For the last two or three nurses' contracts, it seemed as though the government was at a disadvantage. At the end of the day, we have to realize we're in a different world. I don't think there's any appetite out there for huge wage increases or even maybe the existing contract."

Got that? The various oil men and American private health corporation representatives on the Alberta Healthcare Superboard deserve their 25% raises, despite the sharp decline in healthcare since the board came online. The front line nurses holding this decaying system together with a huge percentage of them heading for retirement age took undue advantage of the poor mistreated government when they negotiated their last couple of contracts in a fiscal boom and a labour crunch.

Just because they're the backbone labour force of medicine, cleaning up messes most of us couldn't stomach doesn't mean they actually deserve to make a decent living and have some time for their families after all. How Liepert thinks he's going to force an aging workforce to work even more hours while disincentivising new nurses from joining the profession even more is unclear.

And of course, what would a conservative politician attacking Canadian healthcare be without the Fallacy of the Golden Mean:

In health care, Ron looks at the American system and the one in this country, thinking "there's got to be something between their system and our system that works."

All the extensive evidence to the contrary just being an example of what Stephen Colbert described as 'Reality's well know liberal bias.'

And, for what he's planning, he knows he'll get heat.

"One of our difficulties is nobody has had the courage to take this on. It will show what mettle we have to resist some of the pressure."

Got that? If they manage to ignore public will to protect and maintain our public healthcare system that's a sign of 'mettle' rather than contempt for the democratic will of Albertans.

Every sane economist on Earth says now is the time to increase social spending as a counter-cyclical response to an economic crisis caused in the first place by greed and the erosion of the public sector. Alberta's PC government is ideologically incapable of taking the steps necessary and try to make a virtue of blind unthinking rigidity.

Get your Friends of Medicare signs out of storage folks, you'll be needing them soon.

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