Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 29, 1999
Klein's surgery plan worries health officials
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Alberta's plan to allow surgical operations to be contracted out to private facilities may lead to the destruction of medicare, warn Catholic health officials.
They say the government should abandon its plans and put more money into the existing system instead.
"What scares us is the government's proclivity for privatization of almost everything," says Leo Klug, interim chair of the Catholic Health Care Association of Alberta and Affiliates (CHAAA).
"Our fear is that they are simply going to go too far with this. (Privatization) is a slippery slope. Where you start. Where you stop?"
Sister Mabel St. Louis, who represents the archdiocesan Social Justice Commission on Friends of Medicare, feels privatization could erode the current medicare system.
"Health care should be accessible to all the people" regardless of their economic status, the Sister of St. Joseph of London said. "Fear arises when we hear change. We fear if services are contracted out there won't be accessibility to all Albertans."
Premier Ralph Klein is promising legislation in the spring to let regional authorities contract out to private facilities as a way to cut waiting lists for surgery. He promised there won't be "two-tiered, American-style health care" or private hospitals outside the public system.
"He is saying all the right things. The problem is that a lot of people don't believe him," Klug said. "Despite his rhetoric and his recent TV statements there are a lot of us who are very concerned about what this legislation is actually going to contain when it comes up."
"I don't know what (Klein) has in mind," St. Louis said. "Will the public have access to (contracted out) services through their Alberta health card or will there be additional charges? We don't know. There is a lot of apprehension about what (the premier) is trying to do."
Klug said faith-based health care facilities see health care as a service to the sick, not a commodity to be sold in the market place. "And we stand together in our concern that health care remains a service, a ministry, not a business," he stressed.
"Our question always is when we hear talk about privatizing health care: 'What would happen to the people who are poor and marginalized in our culture?' Chances are that they are the ones who would first feel the effects of privatization."
Klug defended medicare saying, "it is closer to a Gospel-based health care (vision) than are the health care approaches of a lot of other countries."
Privatization could lead to the destruction of the existing system, the CHAAA chair said.
"Our fear is that they are simply going to go too far with this and it makes absolutely no sense that you can run a private hospital and provide the same variety of services and the same quality of service and make money at it. I mean, that's crazy."
Klug and St. Louis said the government should try to improve the existing health care system by putting more money back into it instead of trying to privatize services.
Said Klug: "We need to improve what we have and to work closely with the people who are running these facilities."