Editorial—Back To It

My head has been in the medical space this week, not in small part because part of last week’s vacation was spent in hospital (thankfully not as a patient myself, but just being there to support my partner during a small surgery.)

Coming away from that and I see that the debate between physicians and our UCP government is heating up yet again.  The Alberta government claims that it simply must reduce the amount of money it spends in the medical space.  The AMA offered rates that amounted to about a 5% cut in their overall wages, but that was not good enough for the UCP, in part because it would have made it difficult for them to push forward with their real objective, seeking to provide more room for private enterprise to profit from people being sick.

It’s very tempting for governments that have no willingness to tax and no ability to control their ideologic spending on chosen industries, to simply stop providing funding for the services that people need, and hope that the magical fairy of the free markets will sort everything out without needing any financial, or worse, mental resources from them.

Can you tell I’m annoyed?

I make no bones about being of a progressive lean myself, but I usually try to find a fair way to present issues.  Unfortunately, there’s no angle I can look at the issue of our current medical system and what the UCP government is attempting to do to it that doesn’t strike me as the worst of crass self-interest from politicians – right down to the level of possible corruption, as it has been well reported that the current Health Minster, Tyler Shandro, has an interest in a company known as “Shandro Holdings Inc.” which is a company that manages employee benefit plans and brokers supplemental health insurance from various providers, including private ones.  The ethics commissioner has said there’s no issues here since Mr. Shandro’s shares are held in a “blind trust”, but his wife is the director of the corporation, and he has responded to mail from Shandro Holdings Inc. using his government email.

I’m not sure how it can be considered a blind trust when directorship is held within the same immediate family, but I’m not the ethics commissioner so don’t get to make these decisions.

Since then the government has gone on to adjust not just the wages, but the billing codes so as to make it more difficult and not profitable under the public system for public doctors to deal with more complex issues. A cynical person might wonder if there is some sort of ulterior motive for that.

Some physicians have responded by deciding that, since those patients make up a significant number of their cases, it’s simply not worth continuing to work in Alberta.  Minister Shandro’s reaction has been to contact the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta and ask them to somehow put a stop to doctors deciding they no longer want to work.  Again, a cynical mind might suggest this is because it’s happening too fast, and private industry hasn’t had the chance to set up yet so that it can take the dollars of all these people who need medical care, thus making the UCP government look bad.  Which, let’s be honest, it is.