Editorial – Few words. Fewer results!

Jeff Burgar

The government department known as Alberta Health Services [AHS] gets little love these days. The lack of love is, according to politicians here and there around northern Alberta, well deserved.

To begin, “big city media” barely stirs itself to report on Edson or Wainwright or, gosh forbid, Manning or Fairview. It has to be a major disaster, like fire or COVID, to get a peep in the Edmonton Journal or CTV news. CBC? The hundreds of thousands of dollars we taxpayers in our northern communities pay for CBC operations just isn’t enough, it appears, to get a 20-second squibbit on the national news.

So it must be that almost all Alberta communities are happy with AHS. We never hear otherwise.

Most of our smalltown newspapers are, like restaurants and gymnasiums and so many others, stretched to the breaking point and beyond. How many of the hundred or so newspapers that will survive the next few years is unknown. One can bet though, it will not be all of them. Keeping track of regular happenings in Stettler, Didsbury, Peace River or elsewhere is a tough job at the best of times. Investigating and reporting what is happening inside AHS everywhere then, is an even harder job right across the board.

Fortunately, there are a few people, mostly local politicians, who aren’t afraid to make themselves heard. If they knew how many unhappy people there were, they might be surprised. Happy or unhappy? We don’t even know.

It does seem there is a long list of problems. Doctor recruitment is the tip of the iceberg. Then there are overtime charges. Food services. Arguments with payments for doctors and nurses. Travelling for cancer chemotherapy and dialysis. Births. AHS telling doctors where they can work. The handling of COVID lockdowns. So much more.

And of course, there are the “civilian” committees outside the AHS machine that too often do little more than collect meeting and travel fees. Their results and accomplishments in a six-month period might look impressive. Added up over six or more years of the same people producing the same results is astoundingly pitiful.

Simply put, AHS management, from our perspective in a little town in northern Alberta, is a slow motion train wreck.

McLennan town council is on the right track. Hit with the closing of emergency services at the McLennan hospital, they recently met with the New Democrat Health Critic.

Naturally, when this all started, AHS fired off the statement, “There are no plans to reduce healthcare services in McLennan.”

So suddenly, staff and doctor shortages right across the north are no longer a problem?

Does AHS have any more wine vineyards in High Level for sale? Next week possibly a note saying, “There are plans to have the new Grande Prairie Regional Hospital open as soon as possible.” Wow!

The Municipal District of Opportunity runs its own doctor recruitment. McLennan wants to have more say in their own. Most rural communities constantly struggle for doctors one way or another in the face of opposition from AHS.

Overall, not a great track record at all!

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