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Commentary: The health stakes couldn’t be higher

Voters across the province will soon be called on to take sides in the health care debate

With the provincial election now three months away as of this week, key issues already identified and sure to be campaign topics include the proposed creation of an Alberta provincial police service, the ongoing affordability crisis, and oilfield reclamation costs.

Whether UCP, NDP and other candidates in the region will be able to convince voters that their respective parties have the right plans for those key issues remains to be seen.

Yet, as with the past several provincial elections, the future direction of the multi-billion dollar Alberta health-care system will likely be the top campaign issue, both locally and across the province.

In a major pre-election announcement last week, Minister of Health Jason Copping said the UCP plans to spend $2 billion of taxpayers’ money to improve primary health care, including funding for Primary Care Networks, payments to family doctors and information technology systems.

“The significant budget investment we are proposing would make a tremendous difference in modernizing and strengthening Alberta’s primary health-care system,” said Copping.

Primary health care is the main contact between residents and the health system, and includes family doctors, nurse practitioners, public health nurses, and pharmacists.

The Opposition NDP says Copping announcing the new primary care funding at this time is all about spending public money to score political points.

“It’s yet another retread of the tired Conservative playbook of cutting funding and tearing health care down for years and then pretending to fix the damage with a pre-election budget,” said David Shepherd, NDP health critic. 

“The UCP has caused historic damage to primary care. The promised budget number barely catches up with the cuts the UCP have inflicted on the entire health-care system.”

Make no mistake, the health-care system is under pressure on many fronts, including lengthy ambulance and emergency room wait times creating stress and worry for many, many people.

Voters across the province will soon be called on to take sides in the health care debate – and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Dan Singleton is an editor with the Albertan.


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