WHEREAS the regional health restructuring that took place in 1995 eliminated the Alberta Health Care Association and the Alberta Health Units Association which has left constituents with no advocacy organization to take concerns to the provincial government and it now falls on the AAMDC and AUMA to be the voice to the Ministry of Health and Wellness on these important issues;AND WHEREAS the reduction in the number of regional health authorities will reduce access to boards that can best understand local needs;AND WHEREAS Albertans have previously rejected the Rainbow report which advocated fewer health regions;AND WHEREAS having health boards elected rather than appointed by the government gives the local electorate access to the boards while making them accountable to the regional electorate and allows for the making of decisions based on knowledge of local issues;AND WHEREAS the current regional health authorities should be allowed to complete their mandates to provide equitable health services to their regions with the Minister of Health and Wellness providing sufficient funding including sufficient funding to cover wage agreements imposed by the province;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the AAMDC pursue a joint effort with the AUMA to lobby the Government of Alberta to cease the erosion of health care services to rural Albertans including small urban communities and that the Minister of Health and Wellness allow the existing regional health authority boards to complete their mandates to provide equitable health services to their regions; AND FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that regional health authority board members be 100% elected by the residents of the RHAs to allow for more accountability to constituents;AND FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Government be requested to consult with Albertans, health care providers and municipalities to obtain grassroots information on health care services throughout Alberta and allow these groups to provide input into all future planning and major decisions regarding health care in Alberta;AND FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that an extensive review of regionalization be undertaken thereafter providing Albertans with a full report on the exact costs and benefits of any restructuring to date;AND FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the Minister of Health define exactly what reasonable access to hospitals is prior to making decisions on further regional health authority boundaries.
On October 20, 2002, Minister Gary Mar announced that his department would restructure regional health boards and reform delivery of health care in Alberta. He advised that he would be looking at reducing the current 16 regional health boards to between five and nine; that he would consider having either fully electing or fully appointing boards. Presently Albertans are represented through a partial appointed and partial elected board. In a democratic society having elected representation on boards like the regional health boards offers some security to the electorate that there is accountability for provision of health services in their communities through reasonable access to representatives making decisions. This accountability comes through the election process.Reduction of regional health boards to the extent that is being suggested will erode health care services to rural Alberta and further remove the boards from the local issues and responsibilities. Centralized decision-making does not necessarily make for better provision of services nor does bigger mean better, more cost efficient funding of services. Local representation provides for local perspective on community issues regarding health care. Cost-effective cooperation in the areas of human resource management and laundry services already exist and any savings in administrative costs would rapidly disappear when severance packages are factored in to the equation. Provision of primary health care in rural areas of Alberta can costs more than in urban areas because of the economics of scale, however, rural Albertans do deserve equity in these services. Rural hospitals offer a cost effective alternative to home care which is stretched to its limits to provide services when valuable time is consumed in travel between clients unlike large urban centres where many clients can be seen in a shorter time period. Many rural Albertans are already experiencing increased costs to obtain specialized medical services, centralizing services through megaboards will deteriorate services to these residents even further. Recruiting physicians to rural Alberta is already very challenging. Creating superboards will make it even more difficult to get general practitioners away from the bright lights of the urbanized centres and into these less populated areas.Many rural Albertans are already required to travel more than 80 kilometres one way on icy, snow-covered roads in sub-zero temperatures to avail themselves of basic primary care services. Rural areas fear that the plan to restructure the current Boards will result in the closure of hospital facilities in these rural areas. When these closures occur, municipalities that currently provide ambulance service to transport people requiring medical attention to the regional centres. Further, the health of rural Albertans is also jeopardized by the fact that having to travel the extra distances for medical aid will cause people to wait until their medical conditions are extreme before they seek attention. This will, in fact, result in increased costs due to lengthened hospital stays.The Alberta economy is strong and stable. The Alberta Advantage has brought many businesses and opportunities to Alberta. The 2001 Stats Canada census has revealed that Alberta had one of the highest emigration rates in Canada, however, those who emigrated did not bring their hospitals and other infrastructure with them. Costs of providing health care have increased and the Alberta Government needs to look at putting more funds into health care rather than cutting services.