The Smith government’s recently announced plans to implement one of the largest overhauls of the province's health-care system ever seen will certainly impact residents of all ages in rural and urban communities in the days and years ahead.
Whether the changes will be positive and worthwhile, as the premier and her cabinet colleagues contend, or, as the critics maintain, a recipe for health care chaos across the board remains to be seen.
What is known for certain is that the stakes for individuals and families here and across the province could not be higher.
Jason Nixon, area MLA and Smith cabinet minister, says the changes will benefit and support all Albertans.
“When we're done, we are going to have a much more decentralized health-care system that is going to be able to response to the needs of the people of Alberta better,” Nixon told the Albertan.
“This is not an effort to privatize the health-care system. We are committed to the Canada Health Act and operating within that act. This is to make sure the system works better for Albertans.
“Albertans will continue to be able to access the health-care system that is paid for by the government and is fully operated by the public.”
Premier Smith says, “It’s time to put Albertans first in every health care decision and give our front-line experts the right space to properly care for Albertans.”
Not surprisingly, the plan to overhaul the vital health-care system has garnered swift reaction.
Official Opposition health critic David Shepherd says the government’s plans fail to address the need for more doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals.
“We believe health care does need reform but through investment in the frontlines, a massive recruitment and retention campaign,” Shepherd said. “Ultimately this is just more power in the hands of the premier.”
Residents will be watching with great interest – and also, perhaps, with a little trepidation – to see if this massive gamble with Alberta’s health-care system succeeds or fails.
Dan Singleton is an editor with the Albertan.