"Today, I issue a warning for Albertans. If the Conservative government proceeds with cuts to health care, don't get sick. Don't get old. Don't be born prematurely. Don't expect to get the health care you need and deserve." — Elisabeth Ballermann, HSAA President
Edmonton (24 March 2015) — Performance in Alberta hospital emergency departments is falling dramatically and is likely to fall further next year if the health care budget is slashed, says the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE).
Health care cuts hurt Albertans
"The evidence is very clear. When health care funding is cut or fails to keep up with population growth and inflation, there are serious consequences to the quality of care provided to sick and injured Albertans," says Elisabeth Ballermann, President of HSAA/NUPGE, which represents nearly 25,000 health care professionals, including paramedics and others in the emergency system.
In 2010, the Ministry of Health and Alberta Health Services (AHS) set targets for length of stays at emergency departments. Those targets were to get tougher every year, with the aim of reaching national benchmarks by 2015.
Edmonton and Calgary hospitals not even meeting 2013 emergency room performance targets
"Far from getting better, since the government let spending fall behind population growth and inflation in 2013, things have been getting worse. As of last week, not one hospital in Edmonton and Calgary was meeting the 2013 targets, let alone the tougher targets set for this year," says Ballermann.
"We are supposed to have 90 per cent of patients being seen, assessed, treated, stabilized and admitted within eight hours. Last week, the highest rate we have achieved was 42 per cent at Calgary's Alberta Children's Hospital. The lowest was a shocking 11 per cent at Edmonton's Grey Nuns Hospital," she says.
A similar picture is painted by the statistics about patients being seen, assessed, treated and discharged from emergency departments. The target is for 90 per cent of these patients to be discharged within four hours. None of the hospitals met the 2013 or 2015 targets.
Government estimates $1.609 billion in cuts to already struggling health system
"Our members are emergency experts. They have been at the forefront of alerting Albertans to the EMS crisis. We know that our emergency departments are like canaries in the coal mine. We see the problems there first, but we know that what happens there will be coming soon to the rest of the system, a system that is already struggling with EMS Code Reds, bed shortages, cancelled surgeries and crumbling facilities," says Ballermann.
"In 2014, Alberta's population grew by more than 100,000. The government estimates it will grow by nearly 84,000 next year. That's the population of a new city every year, but with nothing to provide for their health care needs. Where are these people supposed to go when they get sick or injured?
"The Conservative government has talked of the need for a nine per cent across-the-board cut in spending. For health care, that would be a cut of $1.609 billion. That could buy hundreds of ambulances or other vital equipment, it could pay for new beds, or it could pay for 13,514 full-time front-line workers to care for Albertans who are hurting," she says.
Sick and injured should not be punished for lack of a diversified economy
"The premier has claimed we have the best public services in the country, but the figures from our emergency departments show that is just not true. We are falling further and further behind the national benchmarks the government set as targets," says Ballermann.
"Today, I issue a warning for Albertans. If the Conservative government proceeds with cuts to health care, don't get sick. Don't get old. Don't be born prematurely. Don't expect to get the health care you need and deserve."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE