New Alberta budget makes further cuts to a health care system that is still suffering from the 2013 budget cuts.
Edmonton (30 March 2015) — Albertans have one question for Premier Jim Prentice after hearing the budget: If we're all in this together, why are hard-working citizens the only ones paying for his government's mistakes?
"The premier acknowledges that failing to keep spending in line with population growth and inflation is 'truly a cut' — and yet he's happy to impose a cut of 3.7 per cent next year on health care," says Elisabeth Ballermann, President of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE), which represents about 25,000 health care professionals.
Albertans will feel these cuts
"These cuts have consequences. They result in longer waits for ambulances when you have a heart attack or an accident. They result in longer, painful waits in emergency rooms, in more overcrowding in hospitals, in more cancelled surgeries, in more facilities that are falling apart. To put it bluntly, cuts mean pain and maybe even death," she says.
A 3.7 per cent cut next year amounts to $711 million. Over the next three years, the government says it will cut a total of $2,069 billion by continuing to keep spending lower than population growth and inflation. That missing money could pay for 5,970 front-line health care workers next year and 17,380 over the next three years. Or it could buy and staff more ambulances, hospital and long-term care beds.
System still suffering from last budget cuts
"Since the budget cuts of 2013, we have seen our health care system in constant chaos. Almost every week we see more headlines about health-care misery. Yet this tired, old Tory government offers only one solution to the fiscal crisis it created — asking Albertans to pay more for health care in the form of a special levy. while it guts the very care they so desperately need," says Ballermann.
"Meanwhile, corporations, the ones who donate so freely to his political party, get away without paying one single cent more, not even a tiny fraction more of their profits. After this budget, I don't know how Prentice can look himself in the mirror. He blames Albertans for problems his government created — and then has the gall to give us the bill," she says.
"He should have listened to Albertans who told him in his own survey that health care cuts were unacceptable (79 per cent) and who wanted increased corporate taxes (69 per cent)."
Alberta already spends less on health care than other provinces
According to the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI), no province spends less on health care administration than Alberta, at 3.6 per cent of total spending. Meanwhile, CIHI figures show that Alberta continues to spend less of the wealth in the province on health than any other province, ranking 10th out of 10 every year from 1981 to 2014.
"You cannot make cuts of the magnitude Prentice demands by saving on toner cartridges and paper clips. The care Albertans need will be hurt. It's unavoidable and undeniable," she says. "I warn Albertans, don't get sick, don't get old, don't be born prematurely. Don't expect to get the health care you need."
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