LETHBRIDGE: Lethbridge-West MLA Greg Weadick says he refuses to see his government's departure from super-centralized health care as a failed experiment.
Alberta Health Services is now redistributing power to five local health regions, three years after Ed Stelmach's government collapsed nine health regions and other agencies into one main board in 2008 to save money and reduce duplication of services. The move brought widespread crticism from health professionals and patients alike. But Weadick says certain areas of the central system, like buying in bulk, do save costs.
"We'll still be doing purchasing centrally and making a lot of policy and decision-making centrally," says Weadick. "But what we're talking about is a little more hands-on, of the day-to-day operations at a local level and making decisions at a local level."
Bridget Pastoor, the Lethbridge-East MLA, says she's glad to see more power go into the hands of local regions. She says the inability of a central system to recognize and understand local problems is a warning the Liberals have repeated "all along."
"They [patients] have to be looked at as people, not just commodities that are flowing through somebody's paper in Edmonton," she says. "It doesn't work and clearly it has been proven that it doesn't work by the complaints that have been coming forward."
Pastoor says her own experience as a health care professional informs her assertion that local workers need more decision making power to be efficient.
"Instead of having to go through probably three layers of permission, they'll be able to say 'yes I know what we need here,' and they'll be able to make those decisions on the spot instead of having to wait," says Pastoor. "I certainly know that when I worked as a nurse I was very appreciative to be able to have that authority."
In Weadick's view, the health care providers in Southern Alberta are so committed, they haven't shown the same lag as other parts of Alberta.
"We're hitting bench marks and targets that Alberta Health has set in almost every area. We truly have phenomenal men and women here that have continued to do the job before the merger, during the merger and now."