Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Alberta: Big budget deficit for health care.

This is from the Edmonton Sun.

It is somewhat surprising that the government allowed the regional health authorities to submit such large deficit budgets. As Swann the Liberal leader points out it would seem that the government is not paying too much attention to health care professionals. With the new superboard lacking representation from medical professionals but with plenty of business representatives it is not clear that the new regime will be at all sensitive to patient needs or listen to the concerns of professionals and with the abolition of regional health authorities regional needs will count for less as well.

December 22, 2008
Big budget deficit for health care
Department bleeding red ink
CALGARY -- As the province gets set to revamp health care in the new year, including ditching premiums in January, the ministry has become plagued with a large deficit.
A source told The Canadian Press that the health department is facing a deficit of up to $1.3 billion.
Premier Ed Stelmach confirmed the department is bleeding red ink.
"Part of the billion is the accumulated deficits of the regional health authorities," Stelmach said.
"Some of it is due to our labour agreements, some of it is due to growth in programs ... new therapies, new drugs."
The province might end up putting a lid on health spending increases over the next few years, he said.
To Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann, the solutions to overspending lie with better planning to address quality, accessibility and cost efficiency of the system.
"We need to bring research to the table and listen to the front-line professionals ... they know what's working," he said.
By not doing so, the province is not getting the best bang for its buck, Swann said.
"We stopped looking at where the money is going," he said.
Swann said technology, drugs and the 200,000 or so people without family physicians contribute to the high costs, which could be reduced with good health promotion and prevention.
"People are going to the wrong place or are not sure where to go ... we're not supporting family doctors and primary health care," Swann said.
Alberta Health Minister Ron Liepert acknowledged the province spends more per capita on health care than any other jurisdiction, but said the department will not know if it faces a billion-dollar deficit until the new fiscal year.
"The health regions combined submitted a projected deficit of $400 million," Liepert said.
But addressing rising health-care costs is one challenge outlined in Liepert's Vision 2020, which includes providing more health care in community settings and more care options for seniors.
"It's aimed at trying to ensure we do the right thing in the right place and make the system more accessible in the future," he said, adding it has to be more sustainable, not just less costly.
Liepert trimmed $30 million from the prescription-drug program by tripling some premiums and bringing in a $7,500-deductible for high-income earners.
Long-term care is also being overhauled to reduce costs by trying to keep seniors in their homes longer.
-- With files from The Canadian Press

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