The Doctor is in and he's not happy.
It was the daily double on Thursday in Calgary. Two leaders in one morning and both were talking health care. For the critique, we turn to Dr. Paul Parks with the Alberta Medical Association (AMA).
First, the Tory leader announced plans to set up fast-track emergency lines within all emergency departments at major hospitals in Alberta.
The idea is that if you have a broken bone, have suffered a kitchen burn or a bad sprain, you'll go to the fast-track and not sit waiting forever while higher-priority accident victims or people with chest pains are treated. The cost is $2.5 million per hospital.
The review from the doctor? Parks says he's surprised and shocked because the PC government asked for the docs' opinion on this last December and the AMA said: it's already being done!
"All of our major urban and busy emergency departments are already doing fast-tracks, so this is not a novel idea in any way. It's been done for years," said Parks.
"We also strongly communicated that the bumps and bruises and the ankle sprains and the things would be considered fast and easy to be dealt with in an emergency department have absolutely nothing to do with and don't contribute in any way to emergency department overcrowding."
On to the Wildrose announcement.
Danielle Smith announced a wait time guarantee. She said a Wildrose government will guarantee treatment within nationally-set benchmarks or Alberta will pay for the patient's treatment elsewhere.
They could go to a private clinic, to a hospital in another province or even to another country. The cost is estimated at $180 million a year.
Over to you Dr Parks: "I would strongly urge, and I think most of my colleagues would too, is that we should look at improving efficiency and capacity within our province instead of looking out for a novel idea like sending Albertans outside our province. You can get phenomenal care here. It's just we've identified again and again to this government that the issue is we need improved capacity."
Parks says both emergency overcrowding and reducing wait times could be fixed by boosting long-term care capacity.
Too many elderly patients are in acute care hospitals so if there were more long-term care beds, there would be room in hospitals for people who need beds but are waiting in emergency and there would be more room for recovering patients after surgical procedures, he says.
According to Parks, we have the same number of long-term care beds today in Alberta as there were in 1992. However, there are 1.3 million more Albertans today than in 1992.
This doctor's advice is fix that and you reduce overcrowding and cut wait times.