Wednesday, December 02, 2009

All is Well!

Remain calm, insists Albert Health Minister Ron Liepert. Just because suddenly we are being told the Alberta Health care system is only months away from going completely broke is no cause to panic.

Albertans should not worry about reports that the province's health system will run out of money within three months because "this is not something new," Health Minister Ron Liepert said Tuesday.

"This has happened for probably going on 10 years now," Liepert said.

"We've been running deficits with the health regions for some 10 years now and, typically, what happens is there's an arrangement made that cash is advanced and, in some cases in the past, budget deficits have been picked up."

Liepert was reacting to reports that senior officials with Alberta Health Services made a presentation titled "The Great Alberta Experiment: The First Hundred Days" to a health-care conference in British Columbia six weeks ago.

According to the document, the conference was told Alberta's health system would run out of money by February.

It also suggests AHS could run billion-dollar deficits for the next two years — in addition to the $1.3-billion deficit currently faced by the board.

Lack of transparency unacceptable, NDP charges

The fact that Alberta health officials were being more transparent about their plans with colleagues at a conference, than with Albertans, is unacceptable, NDP Leader Brian Mason said.

"They're making presentations to their colleagues in British Columbia, but the people back home who are paying the bills for the health-care system are left in the dark," Mason told reporters while holding a copy of the report.

Mason called the message in the presentation "an engineered crisis" designed to justify further cuts.

"They're trying to scare people into accepting the kind of cuts and privatization that they want to see are deemed necessary by the public," he said. "But I don't think the public will be fooled at all."

Of course this deficit is completely artificial. It doesn't reflect that on a percentage of GDP basis healthcare costs in Alberta have been remarkably stable and predictable. The governing Tories deliberately set artificial, completely un-hittable budgets for healthcare that couldn't even sustain the system much less expand it the way this booming province requires and then when that budget inevitably becomes victim to simple reality as Mason says, we are expected to run howling in terror demanding draconian cutbacks to an already underfunded system.

The real solution is rational revenue collection and healthcare budgeting that isn't dominated by an ideological aversion to the public sector.

Don't hold your breath on any of that with this government.

UPDATE: What's behind it?

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