Lots and lots of boxes.
With clean, crisp lines drawn from one set to another.
That seems to be the UCP’s solution for health care in Alberta: Lots of boxes. And lines.
The reorganization announced Wednesday morning is essentially a plan to come up with a plan.
The UCP government wants to reorganize health care in Alberta to speed service, increase staffing and take treatment decisions down to the local level — all noble goals.
All that’s missing are any details on how this will be achieved.
So far, all the politicians and bureaucrats seem to have worked out is a rearranging of the boxes on the org chart. Plus they’ve renamed some. And switched where some of the connecting lines go.
Will there be new doctors and nurses? New lab techs? And if so, where will they come from?
The provincial government expects Alberta’s population to double in the next 25 years. So, will they double enrolment in the province’s two medical schools and its nursing faculties? Double their recruitment of nurses and health professionals from other jurisdictions?
I can’t answer those questions and I’ve read through the 10 pages of background material the health ministry sent, sat through their 29-slide presentation and endured the nearly 60-minute technical briefing.
The big announcement was all about the “what,” not the “how.”
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There are loads of worthwhile aims, such as reducing wait times for surgeries and emergency treatment. But every government promises shorter wait times for patients crammed into the dank waiting rooms at emergency departments.
It’s a fine notion that comprehensive emergency care should be available 24/7 everywhere in the province. But just how does the Smith government propose to achieve this lofty ambition?
It’s an equally compelling idea to say people outside Edmonton and Calgary should not have to travel so often to our two major cities to access specialized cancer, heart or orthopedic care. But the trick is finding enough doctors to provide those services in smaller cities and funding more specialized treatment facilities.
There is a recent example of health care decision-making by the UCP that makes me wonder whether they’re up to the task. For years, lab services in the northern half of the province were provided by a private company, Dynalife, and appointments and results were available mostly on a timely basis.
In the southern half of Alberta, a government entity ran the labs. And when Dynalife was given the southern contract, the southern organization was allegedly unco-operative. This caused major delays, including in Calgary.
The UCP’s solution? Take the whole thing away from Dynalife and give the entire province to the folks who were causing the delays.
In Wednesday’s announcement there were several references to Albertans being assured “attachment” to a family doctor, yet no explanation of what that means. Will we be assigned doctors by bureaucrats? Will doctors be compelled to “attach” patients to their practices even if they already have too many?
There was also a reference to “chartered surgical facilities,” but no mention of how private care options might factor in.
The functions of AHS (a big, old box), will be split into four sleek, new boxes, but there will still be a single bureaucracy for procurement, IT services, “capital management, research and innovation and workforce planning.”
And it seems there will be one overarching new bureaucracy to co-ordinate all four of the new boxes.
There will be two years of consultation before this is fully implemented. (Might have been wiser to do the consultation first.) So maybe over time some new creature will emerge from all these boxes.
But here’s my bottom line: Alberta will have mostly the same bureaucrats (and mostly the same number of bureaucrats) doing mostly the same jobs just in different boxes with different titles.