'Huge gaps in coverage': NDP request to have emergency health care debate halted
The Opposition's request to host an emergency debate discussing the crisis facing Alberta's health-care system was denied by the UCP Monday afternoon.
The motion failed, requiring unanimous consent from the legislature to proceed.
The debate was to focus on Alberta's plan to deal with the emerging Omicron variant and the UCP's plan to respond to hospital staffing shortages, health care worker burnout, and increasing wait times for ambulances across the province.
Shannon Phillips, NDP MLA for Lethbridge-West, introduced the request for an emergency debate.
"This is not a light request," Philips told the legislature. "We are facing a crisis in the health-care system.
"Throughout the pandemic, the UCP has chosen a path of acting least and last," she added. "While COVID-19 has obviously been a factor that has created this crisis and helped move it along, so too has the UCP government's ongoing war with doctors and nurses and other healthcare professionals."
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For Rachel Notley, opposition leader, the discussion was needed to ensure that issues preventing Albertans' access to healthcare are dealt with — especially as Calgary experienced red alerts for lack of ambulance availability over the weekend.
As of publication, 28 health care facilities in Alberta are facing service level reductions or temporary closures, according to Alberta Health Services (AHS).
"The health minister at the time claimed earlier this year when we began raising this issue that this was simply because of summer holidays," Notley said.
"But the crisis isn't because of summer holidays, and it's also not limited to hospital staffing. Albertans who call an ambulance are facing longer and longer wait times. These huge gaps in coverage have forced EMS crews and firefighters to the brink of exhaustion."
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WORK IS ONGOING: KENNEY
During Question Period on Monday, Premier Jason Kenney responded to questions posed by the Opposition about the health-care system.
The premier said AHS is interviewing nine new candidates for family doctor positions for Lethbridge.
"There are more physicians working in Alberta today than under her government or at any time in Alberta history," Kenney added. "There are more nurses working now; there are more rural physicians working now. We've added $80 million to the budget for rural physician retention and recruitment."
Kenney added that the health minister will be providing an update on the government's plan to tackle the surgery backlog "later this week."
'AMPLE OPPORTUNITY' FOR COVID-19 DISCUSSION
Government House Leader Jason Nixon said the emergency debate was not needed since there were nine queries during Question Period that dealt with the new Omicron variant just last week.
"There has been ample opportunity inside this chamber to discuss this new variant," Nixon said, adding that the legislature hosted a "robust" COVID-19 debate last month.
Nixon said that hosting another emergency debate would suspend important business, like debate on Mark Smith, UCP MLA for Drayton Valley-Devon, private members' motion to develop an incentive framework supporting the profitability of Alberta small and medium-sized oil and gas companies while meeting federal and provincial environmental standards.
"That's just one of the things that would not be debated in this chamber before the chamber would leave for Christmas," Nixon said.
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