Calgary doctors fight back against concerns over privatizing health care in Alberta

A Calgary doctor has started a campaign aimed at fighting possible privatization of health care in Alberta.

Dr. Luanne Metz is organizing volunteers to hit and streets of the Varsity neighbourhood to get a message across: a private health-care system in Alberta would end up hurting those who can least afford it.

“It drives up waitlist times because there is a finite number of people. So some of the providers move into the private system and you have fewer people to serve the public. It isn’t a happy situation,” said Metz.

Read more: Alberta health-care advocates warn more private surgeries could drive up costs

The Calgary neurologist has started a campaign backed by dozens of Alberta physicians.

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They are worried about a proposal on the upcoming UCP AGM agenda from the Calgary-Varsity constituency that asks for the option of “a privately funded and privately managed health-care system.”

“The ideology is less government so this pushes things towards their ideology. But it costs more,” Metz said

“In most situations, private health care really doesn’t do much for the overall public,” said Varsity resident Bob Coote, who was helping distribute flyers on Tuesday.

“It’s good for increasing the access and reducing waitlists for people who can afford it but it doesn’t reduce waitlists and it doesn’t do anything for people who don’t have the financial means.”

Mount Royal University political scientist Lori Williams said the idea of private health-care proposals have been brought up by government before to test the waters.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that this is something that the government would be looking at experimenting with when people are worried about whether there is adequate funding in the system at all,” Williams said.

“Unfortunately, what tends to happen is that because health-care workers can make more money in the private system, it’s for profit as opposed to government guided and accountable. Because of that, a lot of people go into the private system and that impoverishes the public system,” Williams said.

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Read more: Alberta to expand use of privately run day clinics to ramp up surgeries by 150%

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro said any claims of the government trying to “Americanize” the health-care system are untrue. He’s leaving it up to members at the AGM to have discussions.

“That’s the point of having a membership and having conventions: people having those debates. I take no position on that at this time,” Shandro said.

A statement from Calgary-Varsity MLA Jason Copping’s office said that the UCP government is keeping promises of maintaining a publicly funded and universally accessible health-care system and “taking action to deliver better and more efficient health care for Albertans.”

“The minister respects the grassroots policy process where members are able to propose and debate a wide range of policies. We don’t yet know which policy proposals members might endorse to inform the future platform that will be presented to Albertans in the 2023 election,” said Adrienne South, press secretary for Jason Copping.

A statement from the UCP director of communications said that debating policy ideas is part of business at the AGMs and they allow grassroots members to debate resolutions in the open.

The UCP AGM begins Oct. 16.

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