Liberal Leader Dr. Swann makes another plea for public health

“A healthy society” is one of the four values of Canadians for Sustainable Medicare.

Therefore, it was encouraging to hear interim Liberal Leader Dr. David Swann make yet another plea for resources into health promotion and disease prevention when the Committee on Families and Communities reviewed the 2016 – 2017 spending estimates of Alberta Health on May 12, 2016.

Dr. Swann, a former medical officer of health, is deservedly well-respected for his commitment to public office, his medical expertise and experience, and his behavior as a role model for all other MLAs.

Dramatically showing exasperation would have been understandable, but that is not Dr. Swann’s style as he commented on the spending estimates and questioned the minister of health and associate minister of health.

Dr. Swann’s comments are taken directly from Hansard.

“I want to focus on two areas primarily: public health, prevention; and primary care networks. In relation to public health 2.6, 9.3, 9.1 [in the budget estimates] all relate to public health. Unfortunately, what we see again is that this is the poor, poor, poor sister in the health care system, and the result is, of course, that we continue to spend much more in terms of mop up, crisis management, treatment after the fact, and we continue to see our hospitals overloaded. We’re not meeting our targets in emergency wait times. How are you going to start shifting more resources into prevention and public health?”

I don’t see how you’re talking about the public health system. You’re talking about primary care. I’m talking about getting into schools, shifting lifestyles, investing in exercise program advocacy.”

I’m talking about diet. I’m talking about stress management. These are the big killers and the big demands on our health system, and we have a public health system. Public health nurses used to be in the schools. They now don’t have the resources to do that. We used to have a public health dental program that got in to teach kids about dental hygiene and to actually provide services to low income – that’s under tremendous stress. How are you going to shift funds from where they are to some of the primary prevention programs that need to be in schools and communities and workplaces?

“The talk goes on every year. I hear the same talk every year. I don’t see the shifting of resources. We’ve gone from 5 per cent in prevention to 3 per cent in prevention in the last 15 years.”

“Can you give me any sense of where new funding or new resources could go into public health primary prevention supports, or is it going to be the status quo?”

That relates to some extent to the health system indicators. We’ve seen changes to health indicators almost on an annual basis over the last four or five years. Have we established some standard indicators that we can count on in order to try to evaluate how the system is working and how access and quality is shifting, or are we going to continue to see changes to the reporting and the timing of the reporting of health indicators?”

 

Canada’s government-run health care system – Medicare -- is a monopoly that prohibits private hospital and private physician care. Medicare is a subpar performer, ranking 10th among 11 advanced countries. Canadians deserve much better! Patients deserve timely access to quality care and choice of hospitals and physicians. Taxpayers deserve much more value for their tax dollars.

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