The province defended its record on health care this week after opposition parties demanded an emergency debate on the ‘health care crisis’.
MLAs also held an emergency debate on health care Monday following allegations doctors have been intimidated and forced out of their jobs for speaking out.
But Premier Ed Stelmach pointed out that with the recent provincial budget, billions were set aside for health care.
“Our Action Plan for Health makes Alberta the only province to provide the health care system with stable funding for the next five years – including a six per cent increase this year alone,” he said. He also noted that questioning management of the system is, however, fair.
“What is not fair is using our health system as a political football,” he said.
“In recent weeks the entire health system – and not just the government – has faced one spurious allegation after another: physicians accepting hush money, corporate fraud, or health service providers conducting their own internal witch hunts.”
Last week, opposition party leaders and independent MLA Dr. Raj Sherman, who was expected to announce he was joining the Liberals Tuesday as of press time, held a news conference demanding the government launch an inquiry to investigate whether or not health care staff were subject to intimidation or discipline to prevent them from speaking about issues affecting delivery of health care.
Alberta Liberal leader David Swann said the province had nothing to lose and “everything to gain” by holding a public inquiry.
“It’s a perfect opportunity to clear the air, refute once and for all any allegations of wrongdoing, and most importantly, give health care professionals a chance to testify without fear about where the problems in health care lie – and how to solve them.”
On Tuesday, Wildrose House Leader Rob Anderson also submitted a motion for an emergency debate in the Legislature on having Stelmach call for an inquiry into allegations the government has intimidated professionals against speaking out about deficiencies in the system.
“We know there are several doctors and other health professionals that are willing to come forward under the protection of a full and independent public inquiry to tell their side of the story,” Anderson said.
Anderson also said the Health Quality Council’s independent investigation into emergency room wait times and cancer care should continue.
“These are separate issues altogether,” Anderson said. “The Health Quality Council absolutely needs to investigate these important public health care matters, but the public inquiry we propose will deal specifically with allegations of doctor intimidation and silencing.”
But in a statement on Tuesday, Stelmach called much of the recent goings-on ‘stunts’ for the cameras.
“If the opposition or anyone else has evidence of irregularity in the accounting of any public body in Alberta, they have a duty to bring it forward – not raise phony questions as a stunt for the cameras,” he said.
“Serious concerns have been raised about emergency services in our province,” he said. “I respect those concerns and the doctors who have raised them. Over the past six months our doctors and other health care professionals have started to turn the situation around.”