Alberta hospitals cutting back in face of tight budget
Hospitals and clinics in Alberta are already cutting back in advance of what is expected to be a tight provincial budget next month.
It’s a possibility that has health-care advocates worried about how the cuts will affect service.
"It is a big huge concern … for physicians, for Albertans as a whole," said Sandra Azocar, executive director of Friends of Medicare.
A 5-year funding plan introduced by the Progressive Conservative government in 2010 promised 4.5 per cent increases into the Alberta Health Services budget every year.
Three years later, AHS says they are expecting to have their budget increased, but not the full amount.
The health agency says it can’t know for sure what changes will be made until the budget is released, but anticipates "difficult decisions."
"I know our staff, physicians and volunteers will continue to provide excellent care every day, and I’m confident we’ll collectively rise to this challenge in the months ahead," wrote AHS president Chris Eagle in a release sent Tuesday.
Evidence of belt-tightening is already apparent at Edmonton-area hospitals. Last week, health-care workers received layoff notices after AHS decided to close down a 30-bed unit at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.
Then Saturday, CBC News learned of a 1.9 per cent cut in next year’s operating budget at the Westview Health Centre in Stony Plain.
"Cutbacks can mean increased wait times to lower services … people going to other hospitals, which causes other problems, " said William Choy, the town’s mayor.
Azocar said the financial problems are a sign that the province’s decision to eliminate regional health boards and form a single superboard for Alberta has been a failure.
"Alberta Health was created to cut the over-spending that was supposedly was out of control within the regions. We haven't seen any of that efficiency that they were supposed to come up with."
"It's an experiment that has been around now for over four years and there hasn't been any improvement in our health care system."
A spokesperson for Health Minister Fred Horne’s office said the minister will not comment before the March 7 budget.