NDP government plans to introduce legislation to strengthen public health-care system ahead of election
Deputy Premier and Health Minister Sarah Hoffman confirmed Wednesday her office is developing a new bill aimed at protecting the integrity of Alberta’s public health-care system.
“I’m absolutely passionate about public health care and I’m developing a bill around health care,” Hoffman told reporters on Wednesday, “We’ll determine in the days and weeks ahead how long the session is, but I stay focused on my job as health minister.”
Hoffman’s remarks followed CBC’s scoop on the NDP’s planned Bill 1, Protection of Public Health Care Act, which would crack down on extra fees some boutique health-care facilities charge patients for speedy or preferential treatment.
Hoffman was cagey on the details, saying she could not divulge the contents of the bill out of respect for the rules of the chamber.
However, the health minister told reporters there are areas of Alberta’s public health-care system that are under threat of creeping privatization, including labs and Alberta Health Services’ linen cleaning services. (Kenney announced Wednesday he wants to see laundry services outsourced. More on that below.)
UCP Leader Jason Kenney held a press conference last month where he signed a “public health guarantee” that pledged to maintain a “universally accessible” publicly funded health-care system, but he did not rule out opening up the system’s operations to more private care providers.
That rang alarm bells for Hoffman, who has said on multiple occasions that the quality of health care should not depend on how much money patients can afford to put on their credit card.
The minister pointed to Kenney’s announcement earlier this week about axing the province’s planned $590 million superlab in favour of private sector providers as a sign of how a UCP-led government would tackle the health file, but denied his announcement was the impetus for her bill.
“This is a reaction to my values and making sure we’re very clear with Albertans what those are,” Hoffman said, adding she has been looking for ways to strengthen public health care for years.
Kenney told reporters Wednesday that Government House Leader Brian Mason notified him of a spring session and the government’s intention to introduce the bill “a couple of weeks ago.”
“It concerns me that in their desperation the New Democrats may be trying to avoid voters for another five weeks,” Kenney said. “Stop the charade. Stop hiding from voters. Stop campaigning with our tax dollars. We can’t afford another five weeks of the NDP blowing billions of dollars in spending.”