More than three years of navigating a pandemic pushed Alberta’s health-care system to its limits — and the stresses haven’t eased up since.
Access has become a key pinch point for patients as staffing shortages plague the front lines.
It’s estimated that at least 650,000 Albertans are without a family doctor and extremely long emergency room waits at overwhelmed urban hospitals have become routine while ERs and other units are regularly shut down in rural hospitals.
Concerns about ambulance wait times have dominated headlines.
Even getting routine lab work done through a privatized lab often involves weeks of waiting.
Polls show health care is a top priority for Alberta voters and politicians of all stripes are pledging their own fixes for the province’s ailing health system.
The campaign could also rekindle the debate between those who see private solutions as an antidote to problems like surgical backlogs and those who warn that introducing more private care could erode the public health system.
— Analysis from Jennifer Lee, CBC News
Below is a snapshot of party announcements on health care in recent weeks. The parties included are those that have previously elected an MLA or had 44 registered candidates by nomination day on May 11.
— Party announcements compiled by Kelsea Arnett, CBC News
- Build and modernize hospitals, shorten wait times and provide predictable funding.
- Direct Alberta Health Services to put a plan in place to reduce silos and better integrate emergency rooms, acute care, transition care, long-term care and home care.
- Improve quality and affordability of health care by partnering with physicians, health-care providers, professional associations and patients to raise awareness of evidence-based best practices.
- Ensure patients receive tests, treatments and procedures that are necessary and add value to their care.
- Establish a Wellness Foundation to promote health and prevent disease and disability using a comprehensive approach (i.e., evidence-based, primary prevention initiatives).
- Expand use of Integrated Primary Care teams to ensure; improved patient outcomes, better quality of life, longer life expectancy, improved patient experience and lower overall costs.
- Work with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta to expand Primary Care Networks and Alberta Health Care coverage to ensure all children have access to required services to improve their physical, mental and social health. Includes nutrition, physiotherapy, mental health, educational and speech pathology support.
- Expand role and number of registered nurse care managers within Primary Care Networks to oversee/organize/manage children’s health-care needs and work with the education system to synchronize services.
- Fund general emergency departments to enhance pediatric readiness with goal of all emergency departments having a Weighted Pediatric Readiness Score (WPRS) of 100 within 10 years.
- Develop a Pediatric Readiness of Emergency Departments team to manage the improvement of pediatric readiness in general emergency departments.
- Provide funding for periodic surveys (every five years) to ensure targets are being met.
- Address the type of assets used for non-emergent patient movements (clinics, testing, nonemergent interfacility transfers).
- Address the floating boundaries of response areas, as well as how assets are moved within that coverage.
- Set a base mark of service response time for all code levels (type of ER emergency, i.e. Code Red-Fire, Code White-Violence/Aggression) and the allocation of response to each level.
- Investigate and fund asset management technology to aid dispatch in delivering the proper level of response services, without overburdening key resources.
- Address wellness of valued human resources within the emergency response system.
- Ensure mental health support for all levels of staff.
- Identification of infrastructure and training shortfalls, ensuring responders’ performance, and minimizing attrition and leave requirements.
- Identify shortcoming of current cross-coverage model of service boundaries and the effects of responders.
- Ensure ambulance paramedics would not be required to wait with patients for longer than 30 minutes.
- Ensure enough senior care facilities, including public facilities.
- Implement a comprehensive dementia strategy to ensure patients with dementia and their families and caregivers have access to a range of services appropriate for their needs.
- Increase funding to improve availability and quality of home care services, ensuring efficient use of financial resources, reducing the need for expensive acute-care beds and public, long-term care homes.
- Ensure adequate supports for the informal networks for home-care services.
- Investing in AHS-led telehealth and digital health technologies could help improve access to care, particularly in rural and remote areas. Source.
Alberta Liberal Party
- Provide more funding and support to ease the administrative and business burdens of family practice.
- Work with stakeholders to address the causes of vacancies in the field of family medicine.
- Better integrate specialists, mental health and nurse practitioners, and other health-care professionals into primary care clinics.
- Increase funding for mental health by $600 million annually.
- $100 million more immediately for preventative care and a task force to examine how to make preventative care and other preventative measures a centrepiece of Alberta’s health-care system.
- Fund long-term and home-care support for seniors.
- Expand the role of nurse practitioners in emergency rooms, chronic care and wherever needed.
- Recruit more health-care professionals, improve retention of health-care professionals and modernize health-care delivery systems.
- Support supervised consumption, safe supply and free addiction treatment.
- Make dental care more affordable.
- Fix the EMS crisis.
Alberta New Democratic Party
- $350 million to establish 40 new family health clinics.
- $400 million to hire an additional 4,000 allied health professionals.
- Supporting flexible hours for family doctors and health professionals that include evenings and weekends. Source.
- $40 million to support the planning and design of a new, stand-alone Stollery Children’s Hospital, seeing the hospital open in 2030. Source.
- Increase home-care clients by 20,000 over the next four years helping seniors with services like shovelling, yard care, transportation and meal preparation.
- Build more seniors housing in independent and communal settings and expand the Seniors Home and Adaptation Repair Program (home renovations).
- Building continuing care beds, prioritizing development within the public and nonprofit sectors.
- Cover drivers’ medical exams.
- Bring spouses and dependents back into the Seniors Drug Benefit program. Source.
- Health-care Innovation Challenge Fund; $75 million over the next three years.
- Restore the quality of health care, ensuring it remains public, accessible and free.
- Ensure access to a family doctor for an additional one million Albertans.
- Improve emergency response teams. Source.
- Accelerate construction of the South Edmonton Hospital. Source.
- Shingrix vaccine available free of charge to every Albertan who receives the Alberta Seniors Benefit and who wants the vaccine, and those in continuing care or home care (offered to approx. 300,000 eligible seniors). Source.
- Free prescription contraception.
- Covers oral hormone pills, contraceptive injections, copper and hormonal intrauterine devices, subdermal implants and Plan B.
- Prioritize completion of the Red Deer Hospital:
- Press forward urgently and explore any opportunity to speed up the timeline.
- Recruit and train new health-care workers to ensure the hospital is fully staffed.
- Be transparent with the project’s timeline and communicate any changes.
- Never pursue a P3 construction model for the hospital (essentially no public-private partnerships).
- Establish the Alberta Cancer Innovation Hub at the Calgary Cancer Centre. Source.
- Five insured mental health visits per year for every Albertan.
- Support a range of necessary services from harm reduction services, treatment beds, abstinence options, drug checking, access to naloxone and recovery. Source.
- Signing bonuses of up to $10,000 to attract workers, access to income support for those in training and create 10,000 health-related post-secondary spaces
- $70 million will be dedicated annually to signing bonuses for attracting frontline healthcare. $375 million will be invested over three years to add the spaces in schools across the province. Source.
- $46 million for secure, polycarbonate health cards, and distribute them to approx. 4.4 million Albertans. Source.
- Increase funding for emergency medical services to support better care for patients, prioritize paramedic well being, and keep EMS staff closer to home.
- Add 16 community paramedic units across Alberta, including eight in Calgary and Edmonton and eight to serve other cities and rural communities. Source.
United Conservative Party of Alberta
- Public Health Care Guarantee, meaning a UCP government will not “de-list any medical services or prescriptions now covered by Alberta Health Insurance.”
- More money into recruiting and training to expand the health workforce while retaining existing workers.
- Thousands of new university spaces to educate and train more nurses, doctors and other health-care workers.
- Continue to ensure Albertans have public access to a family doctor and will not have to pay out of pocket to see one.
- Add new listed publicly funded health services.
- Expand primary care.
- Continue to streamline AHS governance.
- Streamlined credential recognition for doctors and nurses. Source.
- While in power, we streamlined resources to the front lines, increased health spending by over $2 billion, and added 700 physicians and nearly 6,000 staff in AHS, including 1,800 registered nurses and 300 paramedics. In 2022 alone, we added 254 physicians and 800 nursing staff.
- We added $136 million in new EMS funding to hire more staff and put more ambulances on the road. We also implemented new EMS patient transfer guidelines at hospitals to allow paramedics and ambulances to get back on the road faster. Source.
- Expanding newborn screening to test for more diseases and conditions.
- $5 million boost for testing, educational support for children with autism and other complex needs.
- $10 million to add more obstetrics doctors and develop a provincewide Midwives Strategy.
- $10 million Legacy Grant to the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation (AWHF) to support women-focused research, advocacy, and care.
- Increase the number of newborn screening operations offered by adding five more including:
- Congenital cytomegalovirus.
- Argininosuccinic aciduria.
- Guanidinoacetate methyltransferase deficiency.
- Mucopolysaccharidosis type 1.
- 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA lyase.
- Add funding for testing and educational support for children with autism and other complex needs to ensure there are improved wraparound supports integrating community, education, and health care.
- $10 million over the next two years to develop a provincewide Midwives Strategy and provide improved health-care support for women by adding more obstetrics doctors for communities in need, including Lethbridge and other rural and mid-sized cities.
- $10 million legacy grant to the Alberta Women’s Health Foundation (AWHF) will support women-focused research, advocacy, and care. This includes research into:
- Cervical cancer.
- Heart disease.
- Other women’s health matters.
- The grant will also recruit top researchers to the province and further support advocacy and awareness efforts, including national campaigns and women’s health empowerment initiatives. Source.