Premier Danielle Smith's continued attacks on Alberta Health Services has not gone unnoticed by frontline healthcare workers and the NDP. While the NDP disagrees with Smith's plans to overhaul the system and replace the board, NDP Health Critic David Shepherd said they did find common ground on the idea that significant improvements need to be made.
"Are there systemic issues in our healthcare? Are there things you could be doing to fix and innovate and improve how we deliver services? Absolutely. Is trying to achieve a full reorganization of one of the most complex health organizations, certainly in Canada, if not North America, in 90 days going to help? Absolutely not. We've seen this repeatedly with Conservative government since they first formed AHS. They blame, they point fingers, they reorganize, they shuffle, they fire, and they make no progress. In fact, they just created more chaos," he said.
Shepherd believes the way to approach positive, meaningful change is by working with the people that are already in place. He says overhauling the system isn't the way to go if we want to see the key issues addressed.
"If we want to achieve systemic change, whether that's change of culture, change of approach, changing how we program our services, that needs to be done with respect, trust, and collaboration. We have incredible expertise on the front line. But they are tired and they're exhausted. We have incredible people working at all levels of our healthcare system, we should be working with them, not against them. Based in facts and not rooted in conspiracy theory."
The conspiracy theory he's referring to is Smith's reference to the idea that the World Economic Forum is behind the worldwide struggles that have happened since the pandemic, which he says is baseless. Shepherd, like Smith, believes things need to change within AHS, and an investigation could be a step in the right direction. He added blaming AHS without proof to backup claims is actively harming, rather than helping, the situation.
"I think in any crisis situation, especially in anything of scale of the global pandemic, there's mistakes that are going to be made. I think certainly there were many mistakes made by government. There have likely been some things that could have been done better at AHS, and there are probably some choices that could have been made that might have helped improve the response in some respects."
"We haven't had any sort of an actual investigation. Danielle Smith is not bringing any proof to the table; she is making some pretty wild and pretty bold claims, and she is putting nothing on the table to substantiate them. This isn't a question about whether or not AHS may or may not have done anything wrong. If you're going to make those sorts of accusations, and base a radical restructuring of the health care system on that belief, she should really be bringing some proof to the table."
While Shepherd and Smith seem to be on the same page in regards to wanting to improve the health system, Shepherd strongly disagrees with Smith on where the blame lies in the failures of the system. He didn't completely absolve AHS, but said the UCP government under former Premier Jason Kenney is behind most of the issues. As for our current premier, he hopes to see a solid plan to improve healthcare from her in the near future.
"Whether or not Danielle Smith has a credible plan to do that remains to be seen when it's announced. What we have seen from her so far, there's a lot of conspiracy theories, a lot of knee jerk reactions, we have not seen careful, thoughtful proposals. We'll certainly wait to see what she has to say when she announces her plan."