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Friends of Medicare launches campaign to drop health law changes
Legal opinion commissioned by AFL says proposed changes are undemocratic
EDMONTON, Oct. 12 /CNW/ – Friends of Medicare (FoM) today launches a new campaign to persuade Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky to abandon proposed changes to provincial health laws.
“It’s time to move on from the unpopular and discredited policies of former Health Minister Ron Liepert and his advisory committee on health and abandon proposed changes to the laws governing health care in Alberta,” says David Eggen, executive director of FoM. “It’s clear the Albertans care deeply about health care and don’t want or need existing laws and protections to be weakened or removed.”
The Alberta Federation of Labour commissioned a legal opinion from Gwen Gray of Chivers Carpenter LLP, who examined the existing provincial legislation and the proposed changes. She found our current laws do a good job of protecting the publicly funded, publicly delivered health-care system that Albertans want. The opinion also finds that protections against private health care are contained within Alberta’s laws, not the Canada Health Act. The legal opinion concludes that changing Alberta’s health laws would significantly weaken Albertans’ protections against private insurance, extra billing, and U.S.-style private hospitals.
The changes proposed by the Minister’s Advisory Committee on Health would scrap all existing health care laws – including protections against privatization – and replace them with what is known as “enabling legislation.” The Health Minister could make new health-care laws without even having a debate in the Legislature. The legal opinion concludes that the plan for putting health-care laws into regulations is “not consistent with a democratic society.”
AFL president Gil McGowan says: “We believe that Zwozdesky shares the concern of Albertans about protecting our public health-care system. The revisions to provincial health laws planned by his predecessor sparked legitimate fears among the citizens of this province. It’s time for Zwozdesky to make a clean break from those discredited ideas and embark on a new path that will reassure Albertans that the future of health care is in safe hands.”
“This is far too great a risk to public health care,” says Eggen. “Perhaps Zwozdesky might be able to assure us that he won’t allow more private health care, but he cannot make that reassurance about future health ministers. They would have the power to do whatever they wished, without public consultation or even debate in the Legislature.”
For further information:
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour, 780-218-9888
David Eggen, Executive Director, Friends of Medicare, 780-887-0446
Gwen Gray, Chivers Carpenter LLP, 780-439-3611
After significant public pressure, Alberta Health and Wellness has made public the invitation only, closed door consultations on the new Alberta Health Act. Dr. Barbara Lacy, Chair of the Lethbridge Advisory Council on Health, was quoted in the Lethbridge Herald on Tuesday as saying the meetings were meant to be invitation only events, but after a recent meeting with the province’s health bosses the process has been opened up. “They’ve said they won’t turn away anyone who comes”, says Dr. Lacy. This has been confirmed by Friends of Medicare, who contacted Alberta Health and Wellness on the issue.
The following quote from the Lethbridge Herald provides context: “Sessions were originally announced as by invitation events, Lacey says, with advisory councils asked to suggest names of those who’d be interested. But they were opened to the public after Friends of Medicare suggested the government wanted to hear only from those who supported its changes to Alberta’s health care system.”
Dr. Lacy concedes Alberta Health has not done much to advertise this fact, or much about the meetings themselves. Friends of Medicare has been very critical of the closed door, invitation format of these meetings, and has been holding fully public consultations around the province to discuss changes to the laws governing health care in this province. “It’s a bit late to suddenly say the health consultation meetings are open to the public”, says David Eggen, executive director of Friends of Medicare, “I hope they advertise that the doors are now open and no one will be turned away.”
Now that the meetings are open to the public, Friends of Medicare is encouraging all Albertans who have concerns about the health care system to attend the meetings in their area. Albertans can book ahead by calling 1-888-436-0986 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, although now the meetings are open to the public, no one will be turned away.
Many Albertans are concerned that legislative changes will open the door to more private health care in the province. Current provincial law protects Albertans from such private health care practices as extra billing, private insurance and American style twotier private medicine. Existing Alberta law also sets standards for areas such as hospitals and nursing home care.
May 18, 2010
Alberta Health Act Consultations are “Selective Hearings”
Friends of Medicare has learned that the Stelmach government is pressing forward with their plans to make sweeping changes to Alberta’s health laws without the benefit of full public hearings.
Instead, Alberta Health and Wellness will host 28 “invitation only” meetings around the province, with attendance at these meetings strictly controlled by the government.
“Closed door meetings inspire neither trust nor respect,” said David Eggen, Executive Director for Friends of Medicare. “Considering this government’s long standing efforts to privatize health care, the public has every reason to be suspicious about their intentions.”
Friends of Medicare is concerned with the vague generalities and manipulative language of the Health and Wellness website, especially considering the risks associated with weakening Alberta’s health care laws.
“Like the government’s website says: ‘It’s your health. It’s your health act. It’s your health system,’” noted Eggen. “This process cuts Albertans out of the process.”
“While the changes to the health legislation will have very serious implications for the future of care in this province, the consultation is trying to get everyone to focus on simple value statements that are meaningless,” said Noel Somerville, Chairperson of Public Interest Alberta’s Seniors Task Force. “Removing the Nursing Homes Act from legislation will most likely weaken standards and means families could pay more and end up with less care.”
Albertans who want to participate in these government consultations should e-mail email@example.com or call 1-888-436-0986 and asked to be included in the process.
Friends of Medicare believes that Albertans deserve a full and open discussion on what the Alberta Health Act should look like, and to that end will host fully public meetings in 8 centres around the province where everyone will be welcome to participate. The first two stops on Friends of Medicare’s public consultation tour will be Lethbridge on June 1st and Medicine Hat on June 2nd. Other meetings will be held in Camrose, Red Deer, Edmonton, Calgary, Grande Prairie and Peace River (dates and venues to be confirmed).
Media Contact: David Eggen 780 423-4581