Edmonton

Wife defends Duckett, blasts Tories

The wife of ousted Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett is defending her husband and blasting the government over health care.

Terri Jackson says husband is a 'passionate defender of public health care'

The wife of ousted Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett is defending her husband and blasting the government over health care.

"Alberta will not find a more passionate defender of publicly funded health care," Terri Jackson wrote in a letter published in the Edmonton Journal Thursday.

Jackson is an academic researcher and professor in the University of Alberta’s faculty of medicine and dentistry.

Duckett was fired last month after refusing to speak with reporters about a meeting on the province's ER crisis, saying he needed to eat his cookie.

A mistake, Jackson said, but not a firing offence.

"In retrospect...was it too flippant? Probably."

"But the remaining AHS board will not find a CEO with more skill, integrity and commitment, though they waste another year trying to recruit his replacement."

Duckett was introducing leaner management systems and finding ways to use health workers more efficiently while strengthening primary care, she said.

"Twenty months in the job was not enough to both reorganize the previous regional structures and achieve all these goals."

Governments starving health care of money

Duckett, Jackson said, was hired by a Conservative government — like conservative governments around the world — seeking to reduce public health care.

"In Stephen’s first year he was expected to balance the AHS budget by finding $1.3 billion in ‘savings,’" she said.

It's part of a strategy of starving the system of money "so that healthcare becomes so inadequate that electors reluctantly accept paying additional out-of-pocket costs to get decent health care," she said.

At the same time the province throws precious health-care money at building empty hospitals and clinics to make health budgets the villain in ballooning provincial spending, said Jackson. 

Alberta can afford to spend more on health-care services, she said.

"Low tax rates and low oil royalties lead to an impoverished public health-care system, which will lead to more people opting out of medicare and the downward spiral of public care."