It’s hard to believe that anyone in the United Conservative Party could find a silver lining in their government’s disastrous mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic. With emergency rooms and ICU units filled beyond capacity, Alberta physicians are now preparing to implement triage protocols that report which patients receive treatment and which die.
This gruesome reality has attracted attention of the New York Times, Which is surely not how Jason Kenney envisioned the end of his “best summer” when he was flipping pancakes at the Calgary Stampede in July.
But for some advocates of the UCP, this generational crisis in the health system is apparently just the opening they were seeking to promote the idea of more private participation in the system.
On Facebook, Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland MLA Shane Getson suggested that the real problem is not his government’s “Open for Summer” suicide strategy, but the way Alberta Health Services responded to its inevitable fallout. “For this type of money, and the amount we invest in the system, I think we should get more out of our money,” he said. said. “The levels of ICU beds that were available to the public fell unacceptably low as we entered cold and flu season and a prediction of the (fourth) wave … did the wave hit, but AHS did not provide the beds adequately? to fulfill your own predictions? “
This is critical for the UCP, which seems determined to find new and innovative ways to demoralize the front-line health workers in this province. It does not matter, for the moment, the fact that this claim is in direct conflict with Kenney’s claim that the fourth wave was unpredictable and unknowable. And let’s try to put aside the macabre calculation here, which clearly suggests that the best way to handle a pandemic is to let it rip through the population and let the ICU beds take care of the consequences.
It is the financial calculation that is most revealing, since staffing the ICU beds would have a substantial cost to taxpayers. It is notably off the mark for a government that has consistently complained about the high cost of health care and has repeatedly tried to cut the salaries of doctors and nurses. And it doesn’t align with its goal of reducing public sector spending.
So why is Getson complaining about the value Albertans get for their health care money? It’s almost certainly because you believe there are better ways, and perhaps better places, to spend them. “I’ll ask a few more questions about our system,” he said in another facebook post“And providing some suggestions that we may want to discuss to make sure Albertans (are) getting the service they need because they are paying for it dearly.”
You are not alone. Jason Stephan, the Red Deer-South MLA, He suggested the number of ICU beds in the United States is somehow proof that we are not getting value for our healthcare spending. “Why, with this huge amount of money, AHS has only produced between 300 and 400 working ICU beds for a population of more than 4.4 million, on a per capita basis less than half the worst of what? lowest of any of the US states? “
Stephan fails to mention that this additional capacity would come at a huge cost, with health care costs per capita in the United States nearly double those in Canada. If the PCU wants to talk about efficiency and the need to get a better “return for our money,” the United States is the last place you should be looking. According to a 2020 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, “The gap in administrative health spending between the United States and Canada is large and growing, and it appears to reflect the inefficiencies of the United States’ private insurance-based multi-payer system. The prices charged by US medical providers incorporate a hidden surcharge to cover their costly administrative burden. “
But perhaps introducing more private activity into the health system is not really about reducing costs and improving efficiency. Maybe it’s about changing where those dollars are spent and to which pockets they ultimately flow. That would certainly align with the UCP’s worldview, not to mention the financial aspect. interests of some of his followers. And it might help explain why Kenney stood idly by as his province’s health care system plunged toward collapse. After all, if you want to rebuild something with a different image, you must first break it. In that sense, at least, the management of the pandemic by the UCP has been a resounding success.
If there is any good news here, it is that the PCU is too busy trying to shake off the weight of its own incompetence to do anything else. But the test balloons floating on Facebook for their endorsement MLAs still deserve our collective attention. The stealth privatization of healthcare has long been the holy grail for conservative politicians in Canada. And Kenney is nothing but a man of faith.