What's Wrong with Healthcare?

Thinking inside and outside of the healthcare box. After 41 years of family practice, what's happened to Canada's healthcare system?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Who's Hot, and Who's Not, in Alberta Healthcare

It’s the eve before our big election in Alberta, so I guess I’ll do a run-down of our “premiers-in-waiting” from a “vision of healthcare” perspective. Keep in mind this is my humble opinion only, and should not in any way be considered a “professional” opinion, since I have only met four of the candidates briefly, and have relied mainly on what I could find of their opinions in print (consider this a disclaimer).
1) Mr. Gary McPherson
This is the candidate that I admire most. In spite of personal hardships, or maybe because of them, my impression is that he has learned in life that your success or failure depends on your own efforts. He also seems to know that asking questions gets you more information that preaching to others. He was the only candidate that asked my opinion on healthcare, although they all said that they, as premier, would be prepared to listen. I do believe, however, unless he put an incredible team together to help him, the job is beyond his capabilities.
2) Dr. Lyle Oberg
In the area of healthcare, Dr. Oberg has a huge advantage. I am aware that during his years of family practice in Brooks, he ran a large practice that covered the full scope of family medicine, including obstetrics. I know he has also been consistent in his attitude that private medicine needed to play a larger role in Canada. I do wonder, however, if he has the leadership skills to rally the support of conservatives in Alberta, since he doesn’t seem to have the support of his fellow cabinet ministers in spite of many years in cabinet. In fairness, his approach to healthcare may be frightening the others off; let’s hope that’s not the case. It bothers me that in the past few months, he has shown a tendency to “cut and run”. Not a characteristic we need to deal with Ottawa (well, maybe?).
3) Ed Stelmach
Unfortunately for Ed, I had an opportunity to speak with him personally on health care issues. He seemed to know little about the Barer/Stoddard report that began the decrease in physician training in Canada and seemed to feel the Alberta College Registrar, Dr. LeRiche was to blame. Although Dr. LeRiche had socialistic approaches to most things, I doubt if his influence was Canada wide. Perhaps I should have introduced myself as a physician before he started lecturing me on healthcare. I could find very little substance on healthcare in his web site, and generally felt I was getting a “pep talk”. His “pep talk” approach seems to have won him support; but not mine.
4) Mr. Doerkson
Victor seems to have bought into the present “politically correct” determinants of health, poor education and poverty, instead of looking at the determinants of poverty, poor education, and poor health. He strikes me as a kind man, who, if given a specific task, would do a reasonably good job of it; however, he strikes me more as a follower than a leader.
5) Mr. Mark Norris
Mark was the only other one to answer my enquiries; unfortunately it appeared to be a computer generated response. My overall impression of Mr. Norris is that he may feel that technology is the answer to most things, although I must admit, he seems quite personable. He seems to be big on the “micromanagement” of healthcare, and I couldn’t find any real new vision in the healthcare field. Mark, we need more people in the healthcare trenches. Bean-counters got us into the mess we are in today.
6) Mr. Dave Hancock
I’m sure Dave can talk for hours on health care and the many solutions to every one of the problems facing the Canadian Healthcare System. After all, he is and has been a politician most of his life. My impression is that Dave talks a good game, and can philosophize at length, but isn’t much of a doer. Perhaps that is a good thing since I get the impression that Dave is more than a little left of centre. I’m sure, from what I have read from his web site on health care, he could easily increase Alberta’s healthcare budget from the present 10 billion dollars, to twenty billion dollars in the next four years. Unfortunately, in spite of these expenditures, I suspect healthcare outcomes in Alberta will not have changed.
7) Ted Morton
I would like to see Ted win, but I fear he won’t. He has said very little about health care other than he feels we need more choice in healthcare providers in a free democratic society. He is aware that you cannot provide infinite services from the finite taxpayers pockets, and by having private services, people can have a choice, albeit by financially taking responsibility for their health. He seems to have more faith in free market systems as one would expect of a conservative; and has had the ability in a short period of time, to mobilize significant grass roots support. The MSNM seem to be giving him a fair amount of press, and I wonder if they feel he would be a more vulnerable target in a provincial election than Jim Dinning, thereby giving the Liberals a better chance (My paranoia acting up). He seems to have no fear in speaking his mind, and I think it would be refreshing to have him as the next Alberta leader of the Conservative party.
8) Mr. Jim Dinning
I have had both the pleasure and the frustration of working with Jim in the healthcare arena. He is bright, personable, and although he can talk an excellent political game, unlike Mr. Hancock, Mr. Dinning is a doer. The question becomes, who will be the major recipient of his interventions. Being a very capable politician, I get the impression that when it comes to the difficult decisions, unlike Mr. Harper, Mr. Dinning will “blink”, generally throwing in with the ”powers that be”. At this point in time, Alberta does not need an appeaser on the national scene. Capitulating on the many national issues facing Canada, and Albertans in particular, is not in the best interests of the average Albertan. Perhaps I am being unfair to Mr. Jim Dinning, but he knows better than anyone that the existing healthcare system is unsustainable. His not speaking out on the side of a parallel private system with doctors practicing in both systems speaks volumes (or is it my paranoia once again raising its ugly head?).
I predict that Jim Dinning will win it on the second or third ballot, largely because the existing caucus will not have the courage to back Ted Morton and will push their respective followers to take the “safe route”. Hopefully, I will be wrong.

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