Alberta Party Responses to Canadian Cancer Survivor Network’s Election 2012 Questions

Question 1: Cancer Care and Health Care Services 

According to a Leger Marketing poll, healthcare is the number one issue on the minds of Alberta voters. About one quarter of Albertans believe that healthcare is the most important issue facing Alberta today and almost four in ten will evaluate the parties’ position on healthcare when deciding who to vote for (Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal, March 28, 2012).

If elected, how will your government improve the delivery of cancer care and other healthcare services in Alberta?

If there was an easy answer to this question healthcare in Alberta would be running smoothly and would not be the number 1 issue to Albertans.  Unfortunately there is no easy quick fix for cancer care or healthcare services in general, despite what most of the parties are proposing.

The Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA) put forward 21 recommendations for improving care in Alberta.  Two of them those recommendations were very powerful statements to the political parties:

1.     Our health care system needs a period of stability, after having a number of significant restructurings in the last decade.

2.     There needs to be clearer lines of authority between the government and Alberta Health Services (AHS), as well as the other health professionals.  Government should set policy, not micromanage healthcare and AHS.

Unfortunately these messages seem to have been either forgotten or ignored by the political parties that are offering quick fixes or overhauls to Alberta’s health system.  The Alberta Party is committed to providing solutions that fit with the HQCA’s suggestions, such as:

·         Stop the endless reorganization of Alberta Health;

·         An independent health auditor who will monitor the state of our health system and offer constructive suggestions on improvements;

·         Expand primary care networks; and

·         promote immunizations, early testing and screening programs to catch and treat disease early

Will your government continue to provide a publicly funded healthcare system or would it institute a private healthcare system? Please provide the rationale for your decision.

The Alberta Party supports a publicly funded healthcare system.  Albertans have repeatedly stated they support public healthcare and reports have shown that dollars spent on public healthcare create better results.  

The notion of funding individuals to receive out of province care would be costly to the system.  It takes money out of Alberta’s system, and does not focus on addressing the challenges facing health here in the province.

How will your government restructure healthcare delivery in Alberta?

The Alberta Party’s goal is to stop the endless restructuring that Alberta’s healthcare system has been subjected to.  We see the role of government as offering policy, philosophy and funding, but allowing AHS to restructure delivery as it sees fit.  To claim political credit for solutions posed by medical professionals is not being honest with Albertans.

How will your government improve services for lymphedema following cancer treatment?

Our government can provide focus and funding for specific areas such as lymphedema, but the most effective assurance we can provide is that we will allow AHS to do their job without tampering from government.  The health experts in Alberta work in AHS, not in government, and the best way to improve outcomes is to provide support to AHS rather than instruction.  It’s not the “sexy” political answer, but it’s the reality.

Question 2: Drug Approval

On average between 2004-2010, Alberta has approved for public reimbursement 17.7% of the 306 new drugs approved by Health Canada, compared to the cross-country provincial average for the same period of 23.44% (Access Delayed, Access Denied: Waiting for New Medicines in Canada, Mark Rovere and Brett J. Skinner, Studies in Health Policy, April 2012, The Fraser Institute).

If elected, will your government commit to increasing the number of new cancer and other drugs approved for public reimbursement so that all Albertans have timely access to the drugs they need, and if so, how will this be accomplished?

The Alberta Party does not have an official policy on providing more reimbursements, so it would not be appropriate to make an official commitment on it.  However, this does align with our goals of providing healthy supports to Albertans.  If people are able to afford drugs that will keep them healthier, this seems a more desirable and less expensive option than treating individuals who are forced to pay for those drugs.

Accomplishing this is a challenge.  Funding, though it prevents an ever increasing challenge, can be made available.  Coordinating the selection of drugs eligible for approval will require the help of organizations and stakeholders to establish criteria, costing and benefits.

While our policies are not fully developed due to our recent appearance on the political scene, we are eager to work with professionals in a variety of fields to ensure those most in the know about realities on the ground to put together the best plans upon which to move Alberta forward.

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