By Anna Smith
The official opposition are increasingly concerned about lack of word from the province in regards to exclusivity and instances of member’s-only medicine in Alberta.
In a statement on August 1, Alberta NDP Critic for Health (Primary and Rural Care) David Shepherd responded to the fact that the “clock has run out” on the UCP’s ultimatum to the Marda Loop Medical Clinic in Calgary, which had been planning to move forward with plans to charge for preferential access to healthcare.
“Now the deadline was reached today with no clear statement from the province, no public appearance from the Health Minister, no investigation launched by the premier Albertans who are being asked to pony up to see their doctor are left wondering what’s going on,” said Shepherd, adding that the province stated the clinic would not be moving forward in a statement on August 1. “But that begs the question, is this a permanent end to charging fees for access? Will there be fees to see a doctor at this clinic some other day?”
Shepherd stressed that in matters such as healthcare, Albertans deserve certainty as to the fate of the system, and assurance that their representatives and government values their access to a doctor.
“It’s time to stand up for the foundational principles of Medicare. We’re aware of at least 14 clinics who are charging members fees to access insurance services. Something that Health Canada has declared is a violation of the Canada Health Act,” said Shepherd. “Under the Canada Health Act, provinces that allow private health care providers to charge patients for access to medically necessary services, we’ll have funding clawback by the federal government.”
This past March, said Shepherd, Alberta lost $13 million due to some clinics charging for diagnostic services such as MRIs.
“The longer this goes on, the more funding Alberta stands to lose. And that is unacceptable. In Alberta, you should never have to pay to see your family doctor. The Alberta NDP believes public health care is something to be protected and improved, not sold off and privatized,” said Shepherd.
The Alberta NDP is calling for the province to investigate these instances of member’s fees in clinics in the province, to protect Albertans from these fees and ensure federal funding.
“If they won’t, the Alberta NDP will, this fall, bring forward a private members bill to explicitly prohibit membership fees that cover insured services and medical clinics. Because you should never need a debit card or credit card or club card to access your health care. All you should need is your health care card,” said Shepherd. “Allowing the commodification of health care will only make things worse. We need to see a real plan to support family doctors to provide the care that Albertans need and deserve.”