Last year, the Progressive Conservatives put out a request for proposals outlining a $3 billion dollar deal that will privatize laboratory services in Edmonton and northern Alberta, the largest health privatization deal in the province's history. The deal will affect patient care, administration, technical staff, research staff, academic staff, and will allow applicants to define and submit their own reporting structure to AHS.
This deal should come as no surprise--a disappointment, yes, but the PCs have long advocated for the privatization of provincial health services. What's most disturbing is that PCs remain tight-lipped on the list of companies who have bid on the $3 billion contract. We know that more than one of the likely bidders has been accused of overbilling governments in the United States for their services. The NDP has repeatedly called on the government to release the name of applicants so that Albertans have a chance to voice their opinions before their health care system is auctioned off. We have a right to know who these applicants are.
Bottom line--private health care is a business. In the United States, privatization has led to a glut of unnecessary testing and procedures. Contracting public services to the private sector creates a lose-lose scenario for both the public and government: contractors charge what they want--accountable only to executives and quarterly profit margins--while the public suffer poorer service and the government foots inflated costs. Medical expenses are the #1 cost of personal bankruptcy in the United States, and if privatization occurs here, those same harsh fees and inefficiencies will put a strain on our health care budget.
The government thinks that privatizing laboratories will make them more efficient, but research done by the Parkland Institute and the Wellesley Institute demonstrate that, while privatization has no effect on wait times it does increase the cost of services. Health care makes up 45 per cent of our provincial budget. These dollars should be spent wisely and efficiently. Every dollar wasted is a lost opportunity to improve patient care.
We know there are alternatives to a privatized system. Privatizing lab services will take control from the AHS and erect barriers around the administrative structures that govern service delivery. By taking responsibility for service delivery instead of passing the task off, the New Democrats would decrease health care costs by improving the quality of service and dramatically reducing the duplication of administrative responsibilities and executive salaries.
It's time to take control of our health care system, not put its future in the hands of private industry. If the PCs insist on pursuing a privatized lab services model, Albertans have a right to know who is applying and whether we can trust them to provide the level of service Albertans expect and deserve.
Alberta NDP Health Critic David EggenFor more information, visit http://albertandp.ca/