Will Premier Smith’s plan to reform Alberta’s health care system work?


The dismissal of the Alberta Board of Health and the appointment of a sole administrator by the Prime Minister Danielle Smith is seen by some as a welcome sign of much-needed overhaul of the province’s health care system, while others say placing such a heavy burden on one person’s shoulders could be a recipe for failure.

Dr. John Cowell, a former administrator of Alberta Health Services, been accused of improve emergency medical service response times, reduce emergency room wait times, reduce wait times for surgeries, and develop long-term reforms through consultation with frontline workers .

Susan Martinuk, researcher and author of “Patients at Risk: Exposing Canada’s Health Care Crisis,” believes Smith is on the right track.

“She listed the major problems – as we all have – without giving solutions. Sometimes nuclear weapons and reconstruction work. Sometimes that’s not the case. The best thing is that it changes! This is what we need,” Martinuk told The Epoch Times in an email.

“First, make sure patients on waiting lists get treatment. Payments should reward hospitals for treating patients. Current global budgets encourage hospitals to treat fewer patients.

Dr. Herb Emery, former senior research fellow and director of the health policy program at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, believes the task is too big for one man.

“It doesn’t matter who Smith appoints, and I have no idea why Cowell would agree to do that. He can’t pull it off,” Emery said in an interview.

“Dr. Cowell can prove me wrong and fix everything, but I’ve never seen anyone fail so badly as Dr. Cowell. If he can pull it off, he’ll be a legendary hero in Alberta and Canada, rather than another guy who tried his best and got burned by the health dragon.

Cowell, who will have two staff members working with him, said he expects to see results in six months.

The timeline and sheer size of the health care system are hampering Cowell’s chances, says Emery, currently an economics professor at the University of New Brunswick.

“The system is too large and heterogeneous for a single agency, let alone a person, to operate and manage. Any time you make a major change in an organization, you need 12 to 18 months for the new structures to be operationally functional,” he said.

“Making this big structural change the last year of a term, where re-election and the continuity of the new structure are not assured, means that it will be really difficult to get the overwhelming number of party groups on board. stakeholders, care providers and constituents over the next year People who don’t like the way things are going can drop tools, not participate in the effort to “fix things”, or even campaign against “reparations”.

“More than cautiously optimistic”

For his part, Cowell believes that the structure of his role and the existing investments in Health care give it a good chance.

“[I’m] more than cautiously optimistic, we’re going to see real results. Six months is all the time you need, and you couldn’t do it any less to see meaningful change. But I think the winning conditions are now in place,” he said at the press conference announcing his appointment.

“The fundamental changes are so well organized and so well thought out that all we really need to do is accelerate them. … We have a chance here because the supply is much more robust than the demand is.

During his career, Cowell served as CEO of the Health Quality Council of Alberta, President and CEO of the Workers’ Compensation Board of Alberta, and for more than 30 years he was a clinical professor. in the Department of Community Health Services at the University of Calgary.

In February, the 78-year-old fractured his knee in a cycling accident. He was transported by ambulance to the emergency room, then to surgery, and spent eight days in hospital.

“I don’t recommend you try it, but it’s a damn good way to know what you’re up against,” he said at the press conference.

Ian Madsen, senior policy analyst at the Frontier Center for Public Policy, says more fundamental changes are needed.

“I’m not sure that reorganizing or restructuring the administration of the health bureaucracy will change much,” Madsen said by email.

“Ideally, the whole system would be scrapped, individual Albertans would receive a health insurance credit and purchase their own private insurance coverage. Hospitals, clinics, diagnostic offices and doctor’s offices would all be privately owned and all procedure prices would be fully publicized and competitive. The names of various entities above could become public and raise capital, if their current funding is insufficient,” Madsen said of the changes he believes are needed for a major overhaul of the system.

“If similar things can be accomplished in the current system, I would be pleasantly surprised.”


Lee Harding is a Saskatchewan-based journalist and think tank researcher, and contributor to The Epoch Times.


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