Editorial – Local decisions, better decisions

Richard Froese

If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

So if it’s broke, fix it.

Hospitals and health care in rural and northern Alberta are broke and under-served.

Premier Jason Kenney and the provincial government need to act soon.

Citizens want the government to provide more services and staff at their local hospital.

Many local governments and community leaders say centralized administration and decision making under Alberta Health Services in Edmonton is not working.

It’s time to resuscitate local hospital boards, and perhaps community health advisory councils.

One hospital board serving each hospital would be the most effective.

Kenney believes in local decisions.

“We want to decentralize decision making in health care,” Kenney said.

“The order of government closest to the people makes the best decisions.”

The quotes came from a South Peace News story on Jan. 30, 2019.

Kenney stated his position in High Prairie on Jan. 23, 2019 on tour of northern Alberta as the leader of the new United Conservative Party before the election was called.

When he became premier, that pledge didn’t progress.

He said in 2019 that more decisions for healthcare services in communities need to be made at the local level by authorities and managers.

The issue of local hospital boards was also supported by municipal leaders at a Big Lakes County council meeting May 26. Reeve Ken Matthews suggests that the government needs to resuscitate local health authorities [hospital boards].

The new High Prairie Health Complex opened in 2017 and has fewer services now than the old hospital did 40 years ago, he says.

That was in a time of local hospital boards.

“When we had local hospital boards, our hospital was operating fine,” Matthews says.

Rural Municipalities of Alberta president Paul McLauchlin agrees.

“We need to have local decisions made at home,” says McLauchlin, who spoke with council.

Hospital boards were effective for many years. Additional health advisory councils were also helpful until they were turnfed in 2008. During those years, each hospital had a committed group of representatives who met regularly to discuss issues and concerns and suggest solutions.

As part of Peace Country Health, each advisory council was an effective link with the health region and community. A health region official and local director of the regional health board were also present at meetings to hear concerns and share information.

Currently the health councils are regional where more than one hospital is covered.

Bring back local hospital boards and health councils where people know more about health needs in their rural and northern community than people in Edmonton.

Pressure your MLA, Health Minister Tyler Shandro and the premier.

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