By Trevor Busch
Despite a slim majority of UCP members voting in favour of a privately managed and funded health care system in Alberta at the party’s virtual AGM in mid-October, Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter has confirmed a commitment to universal health care in the province.
“First of all, in our founding convention, we said that we were committed to universal health care,” said Hunter. “Universal health care is going to be publicly delivered, and we’re committed to that.”
The policy resolution was put forward by the Calgary-Varsity UCP constituency association on Oct. 16-17, and passed with 52.71 per cent of the membership in favour.
Hunter, who also serves as associate minister of Red Tape Reduction, said his party is taking steps to bring down surgical wait times in the province, and moving to trim the fat at the middle management level.
“Now, it certainly is important to make sure that we deliver good quality health care, and so we have a surgical initiative to bring down wait times. Good health care is not waiting on a list for a hip replacement, or for a knee replacement, or any of the surgeries they have to do. So we’ve committed to making sure that we bring down those wait times. We’ve said that we would bring it down to at least four months, so nobody would have to wait longer than four months, and we’re well on our way to being able to accomplish that. Now in order to be able to do that, obviously we need to find efficiencies within the system, and I don’t think there’s very many people out there that think that there’s not too much middle management in health care.”
The UCP’s virtual AGM debated policies and governance issues, with a focus on constituency associations, preparing for elections, fundraising, the nominations of candidates, and setting out rules for reviewing the current leader. Members voted on 30 policies submitted by various constituency organizations.
“We’re going to cut 100 middle-management positions within health care and AHS,” said Hunter. “These are all good things — I don’t think there’s anybody out there that I’ve ever talked to that said you shouldn’t cut middle management at Alberta Health Services. So we’re following through on that promise, I’m excited about that.”
Placing the delivery of laundry services back in the hands of the private sector will save more taxpayer dollars and promote efficiencies, argues Hunter.
“I’m also excited about the minister’s (Tyler Shandro, Health) approach in terms of being able to find efficiencies with the delivery of services. Under the NDP, they were moving towards bringing laundry services in-house. In order to do that, they were going to have to buy $200 million worth of laundry equipment. And yet the private sector was far more willing to pay for that rather than having the taxpayer pay for it, and deliver the service in a better way, in a more efficient way. So we’re back to the model we were doing before, we think that’s the right approach to looking for those efficiencies.”