I recently read a very refreshing letter to the editor in the Red Deer Express from Dr. Michael Rachlis. It was nice to hear a perspective that challenges the idea that a better health care system requires more money.
Dr. Rachlis puts words to what Albertans already intuitively know; we need to better manage the health care resources we already have in place.
When the Alberta Party was creating their health policy, they listened to hundreds of Albertans who made it very clear that a strong, stable healthcare system is a priority for them.
As I go door-to-door listening to Albertans in the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake constituency, people are speaking very clearly to me that they want to see changes. Many cannot understand why health care costs so much (almost 40% of the provincial budget) and feel there must be a better way to manage this amount of money. They want easy access to a family doctor and increased use of primary health networks. As Dr. Rachlis points out, no Canadian should have to wait longer than a week for an elective specialist to have input into their case.
Increased support for home care and continuing care is another area citizens have identified as a way of re-distributing financial resources that are currently being spent keeping patients in acute care beds. It is less expensive to provide support for home care than it is to have patients stay in costly hospital beds.
The Alberta Party heard Albertans say they are interested in prevention of illness and injury, not just dealing with sickness. They want a health care system, not a sickness system. Providing education and resources help people take control and responsibility for their health. Albertans know that, as the old adage says, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Another area that would benefit from an emphasis on prevention and a more strategic approach is the area of mental health and addictions. Mental illness and substance abuse have devastating impacts on individuals, our families and on our communities. Pretending there is not a problem is no longer an option. Pretending that poverty, mental illness and addictions do not impact the healthcare budget is no longer an option. It is time to develop a coordinated province-wide strategy that treats mental health in the same way we address physical health and to include poverty reduction as a pillar of that health strategy.
There are many areas that need to be examined and as Dr. Rachlis says, we need to redesign the delivery system because it is as sustainable as we want it to be.