Alberta's manufactured health-care catastrophe
While Premier Danielle Smith suggests a globalist conspiracy produced Alberta's health-care staffing shortage, unions representing frontline workers point to the real culprit — years of cuts.
Unions and advocates representing 122,000 Alberta healthcare workers held a joint news conference Monday to “insist” on a meeting with Health Minister Jason Copping to address a major staffing shortage plaguing the province’s health-care system.
Monday’s speakers agree the shortages have been manufactured, but they point to years of cuts to the public health-care system, rather than some unhinged globalist conspiracy theory.
The Orchard is a reader-supported publication. In order to continue doing this work, I need to get paid. If you have the means, please consider a subscription starting at $5 a month. That’s just 17 cents a day!
“We are struggling, because for a decade now the public health-care system has been neglected. The problems in the system won’t be solved by another re-organization of AHS, or by firing people, or by even more acts of privatization,” said Mike Parker, president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta.
Parker spoke alongside representatives of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), United Nurses of Alberta, the Alberta Federation of Labour and Friends of Medicare.
Sandra Azocar, a VP with AUPE and former executive director of Friends of Medicare, said the “root of the problem” facing AHS and other provincial health-care bodies is short-staffing, which “was only exacerbated by this pandemic.”
“The truth is our members are trying their best to work within a system that is demanding that they work in unreasonable and unsafe situations,” Azocar added.
OK, fair enough, you want to meet with the minister to express your concern. But we all know he’s not going to listen. So, I asked, what’s your Plan B?
“If we are again in a situation where we're not being heard by the premier or the minister of health, we will continue to advocate, we will continue to have actions, we will continue to get our membership engaged,” Azocar responded.
Raj Uppal, the president of CUPE local 401, which represents workers at Edmonton’s Grey Nuns Community Hospital, struck the same note, saying an unresponsive minister will “force us to take the next step, which is going to be more and more public awareness and education for our members to engage them against” the government.
There is no Plan B, but that’s not necessarily the unions’ fault.
While Smith’s remarks have focused specifically on AHS administrators, former chief medical officer of health Dr. Jason Talbot told the Edmonton Journal that AHS administration was key to preventing the COVID crisis from being worse than it was.
“You don’t dump the captain who brought the ship through the storm into the port safely. You don’t throw them overboard after the storm has gone,” Talbot said.
He said Smith’s rhetoric is going to make it hard to attract new leadership for AHS.
“I can’t see how any executives who have the skills and knowledge and the attitudes and values that are necessary to operate something as complex as [AHS] would want to come to a place like Alberta where they can be criticized and fired in public,” said Talbot.
Bob Barnetson, a labour studies professor at Athabasca University, told The Orchard the same difficulties apply to recruiting frontline health-care workers:
There's a global shortage of health-care workers, so where the fuck are they going to find this number of health-care workers and how are they going to lure them, given the government's long-term salary constraints that they have imposed on health-care workers?
More importantly, why would any sane health-care worker come to work in a system that not only is clearly failing, but the government is intent on having it fail?
The problem is unions don’t have any legal recourse to the premier’s dismantling of the public health-care system, he added. All they can do at this point is express their concerns to the minister and hope reason prevails, even if its likelihood of success is near-nil.
“If [Smith] wants to fly the plane into a mountain, there's not much workers can do,” Barnetson said.
In other news …
A caseworker with Veterans Affairs told a combat veteran assisted suicide was preferable to “blowing your brains out against the wall,” according to testimony before a House of Commons standing committee Monday.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and former solicitor general Sylvia Jones have been summoned to appear before a federal inquiry into the use of the Emergencies Act to end the occupation of downtown Ottawa by the “Freedom Convoy” after both repeatedly refused to testify.
The Canadian military could encounter difficulty replacing the four M777 howitzers it sent to Ukraine, as the guns are no longer in production.
Rishi Sunak, a former chancellor of the Exchequer (a/k/a finance minister), has become the U.K.’s third prime minister in less than two months after winning a rapid-fire Conservative leadership race.
The A/V Corner
Listen: The Forgotten Corner has returned with our first new episode in four months, in which Scott and I discuss Premier Smith’s remarkable comeback from political obscurity and the dangers posed by her premiership.
Listen: We had friend of the newsletter David Khan on Big Shiny Takes to talk about efforts to rehabilitate Jason Kenney’s image, as exemplified by a John Ivison piece arguing that Kenney was just too good of a guy to succeed in politics.
Watch: Speaking of Premier Smith, The Breach has a video out debunking private healthcare talking points, which is well worth a watch.
Edited by Stephen Magusiak