Investment in Health Care

  • Apr. 14, 2009 10:00 a.m.

MLA Report

Ray Prins

A short time ago the minister of Health and Wellness announced he was asking Alberta Health Services (AHS) – the new body that took over responsibility for delivery of health services from the former nine health regions – to do a review of all health facilities to see if they met certain criteria. Simply stated, that means we’re looking at how all facilities – existing, proposed or under construction – fit in to the overall system, and also how they meet the needs of your community.

You also may have heard some numbers from our 2009-10 budget announcement April 7. I’d like to provide some context.

In the past year, a number of initiatives were launched by the Minister of Health and Wellness to get at the real work of improving access to needed services. The Provincial Service Optimization Review, Vision 2020, and the Continuing Care Strategy all will guide the review being done by AHS, and the health capital plan has been designed to align and support the new directions and strategies. Those initiatives are described on the website (see below).

All of this to say that in these new economic times, we will not be spending your money on new hospitals or other facilities unless we have assurances the services being planned are the most appropriate for patients. New construction will proceed at a reasoned, prudent pace, with the focus on local needs.

We’re making almost $4.5 billion available over the next three years – no small figure – but we’re watching it closely, and are not building space for the sake of quieting critics. It doesn’t make sense to add hundreds of beds with no planning for workforce shortages and other operating and administrative costs.

The time span for some projects may be a little longer than some have expected, given current economic circumstances. But the numbers are still impressive. For this year, AHS will have $1.7 billion available for capital expenditures ($238 million in infrastructure support for capital projects in the three-year plan announced April 7, will supplement the approximately $1.5 billion AHS has on hand in cash capital reserves).

The 3-Year Plan aims to:

1. Relieve pressure on the acute care system and emergency rooms by introducing a more robust graduated outpatient (ambulatory care) system.

2. Introduce more integrated health care which better matches resources with service needs. Less focus on type of facility and more focus on delivering the right mix of services.

3. Shift from facility based long-term care to supportive living models to address demands of seniors. Government will continue to partner with supportive living providers to optimize the numbers of units delivered.

The old days of building hospitals as fast as you can to show you’re doing something are gone. It’s time for a system that provides the right service at the right time in the right place. It won’t happen overnight, but we’re on the right track. The patient, in all of this, will come first.

More information on the initiatives mentioned above, government’s capital plan for health, and a project-by-project breakdown of capital investment for the next three years, can be found on our website www.health.alberta.ca.

If you would like further information for this or any issue, please feel free to contact my constituency office at 403-782-7725, toll free at 1-800-565-6432, by e-mail at lacombe.ponoka@assembly.ab.ca or by mail at 101, 4892 – 46 Street, Lacombe, AB T4L 2B4.

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