Special Health Care Message, from PC Alberta Leader Ed Stelmach

I’m always delighted when I see an email from the PC Party in my inbox – especially over the last several months. Recently I have especially noticed the importance the Party Executive, and the Party Leader, Ed Stelmach, have put on being open and transparent with their party members and the public. They are making sure we are informed and a part of the process.

This email was sent this afternoon at about 3:30pm. We wanted to share.

“A Special Health Care Message” right from the PC Leader. No media spin, no opposition spin, and no spin from those of us chirping on twitter.

I’m especially impressed with his promise of 600 more continuing care beds by March 31, 2011. That is only 4 months away – and after chatting with a doctor friend of @ppilarski and mine over the weekend I believe this will help dramatically. She explained, through her firsthand experience, that more continuing care beds and a stronger home care system will alleviate some of the ER stress.

Looking forward to the continued communication from the PC Leader and for the additional information he committed to providing in the coming weeks.


To: pcforum@albertapc.ab.ca
Subject: Health Care Message
Date: Mon, 29 Nov 2010 15:27:13 -0700

Alot has been said on the state of our health care system in Alberta over the last few days, and given the many calls and e-mails coming in to the PC Alberta office recently, we thought that it was important to provide you with a report on what is actually taking place in health.

First, we want to make it clear that despite the claims that the system is in crisis, our emergency rooms are open and front line staff continue to deliver the services Albertans require.

Yes, ER waiting times have been recognized as being too long, which is why a number of initiatives were put in place in recent months, like new emergency department protocols and the opening of 81 additional acute care beds in Edmonton and Calgary over the next three months to create new surge capacity. In addition, new primary care networks have been set up across the province.

In total there are now 38 of these networks and more will be added to the system soon. About two million Albertans now have access to health care services through these innovative networks.

We have also established a five-year funding plan for health services that will provide the stability needed in the system to deliver better care. This funding is supporting 800 new continuing care beds and will provide at least 600 more beds by March 31, 2011. These dollars will also contribute to the expansion of the Alberta Health Services home care program that is supporting 900 more high-needs home care clients in Calgary and Edmonton.

Unfortunately, all these positive initiatives have been overshadowed by the personal distractions of the last few weeks. Decisions such as the suspension of a caucus colleague are always difficult and taken very seriously.

During this time, caucus offered great compassion and support to Dr. Sherman for the pressures he faced as a physician and as a member of Government Caucus. Ultimately, while we respect and welcome constructive debate and advocacy, we have to ensure that it is done for the best interest of Albertans.

This is true in caucus and it is also true on the Alberta Health Services leadership team. That’s why we support their decision to appoint interim chief executive officer, Dr. Chris Eagle, and we remain committed to our goal of creating the best performing health-care system in the country and reducing emergency room wait times.

Next week you will see more information about Alberta’s health care action plan. This plan outlines the initiatives that we will undertake and the performance measures that will highlight our progress to becoming the best-performing public funded health care system in Canada. 

Finally I want to recognize and thank all health care professionals who continue to deliver necessary health services to you and your families.

Ed Stelmach

I Blame Everyone

As a highly engaged Albertan and active member of the Alberta PC Party, recent events related to Alberta’s health care system have made me take a step back and look at the state of affairs.  The past week or so has been packed with opinions, spin, honesty, sincerity, action, reaction and high drama.  Media and opposition have been perpetuating a campaign against the governing party, which has been pushing back, making decisions, acting and reacting.  It’s been quite the show, and it’s likely to continue until the next election.

I admit that I have stepped back from my usual #twitter chatter because the situation looked ugly.  People are mad and they have good reason to be.  I also didn’t know the details of what was happening on a day-to-day basis, so I didn’t want to speculate and comment on the speculation and commentary.  After a week of observation and careful consideration, I conclude that we should all share some blame.

I blame everyone for what has been happening with respect to the health care debate in Alberta – but I especially blame myself!

I would like to start by blaming Premier Stelmach.  I don’t blame the Premier for the state of the health care because the reality is that despite some reports, the overall health system in Alberta is functioning well.  There are definitely some very difficult pressure points – ER is a case-in-point – but based on my experience and the experience of many people I have spoken to over the years, people are generally satisfied with most of the system’s functionality.

However, for those who want to argue that Alberta’s Healthcare system is in terrible shape across the board, I argue that healthcare is in shambles across the country and arguably the greatest challenge of any government in the world.  Healthcare is a losing battle.  Aging populations dictate that this will continue for some time.

But I believe Premier Stelmach could have been more hands on with respect to communicating to Albertans the events that were unfolding.  Even a brief statement like “we are working though internal challenges and will be reporting back to Albertans on our next steps over the coming days.”  It’s my view that by not doing this, Premier Stelmach allowed the media and opposition to control the story.

I blame Duckett for a completely inappropriate performance with the media.  Duckett is a very bright and qualified man who was clearly under a lot of pressure and visibly annoyed with the media’s questioning.  Having said that, he should have acted like a professional and told the media that he had no comment and asked them to wait 30 more minutes for the scheduled news conference.

I blame the media, who, in many ways, acted very unprofessionally themselves – especially on #twitter.  The media worked overtime to make Duckett’s cookie story as big as they could.  Until recently, the media has been the opposition in Alberta.  It’s my view that the Alberta PC Party now has an effective opposition and the media needs to start reporting differently.  There is a huge difference between reporting on a story and creating and perpetuating the story.  I feel that the media crossed some lines this week.

I blame the new opposition parties.  The Party on the right has been highly dogmatic with respect to its criticism.  They have a health platform that we will write another blog about one day soon and they have been trying to focus all of their health criticism through the lens of those policies.  While this approach is smart during an election campaign and during regular times, they made ZERO productive recommendations with respect to the emergency room crisis  and actually did all they could to take the focus away from the solutions recommended by the government and emergency room docs who had an all day meeting last Friday.

The new party on the left caused much more damage because they don’t actually have a detailed healthcare platform and likely have no clue how to deal with the crisis in the ER.  Their tactics were lame: cookie jokes, mudslinging, demanding resignations and making a general mockery of the entire incident.  Their tactic is to make it look like the sky is falling and that life could not be worse.  Some of their organizers are former green party organizers, who are well known for their deceitful tactics and gross exaggerations of the truth.  Expect much more of this in Alberta’s future – just like they turned the world against the Alberta Oilsands, they will attempt to turn Albertans against their government.  We are smarter than that – we’ve shown it before and will show it again!

I blame Raj Sherman, who, despite doing the right thing and speaking out in protest against the ER crisis, got personal with his criticisms.  I am very confident that had Raj not started personally blaming his colleagues in his criticism and stuck to focusing on solutions, he would still be in the PC Caucus.  I have known Raj since before he got elected and I can tell you he has been an amazing and caring friend to me.  He helped me through my mom’s deadly bout with Cancer.  But he has also been going through a lot of stress due to illnesses in his family and negative stress makes us do things in haste. A caucus is a team.  When someone from that team starts criticizing other team members in public, a line has to be drawn.  I don’t blame Caucus for their decision!

My friend David McLean inspired me to blame Tommy Douglas on #Twitter today and I must say his comment inspired me to write this blog.  We hold Mr. Douglas to Canada’s highest standard because of the vision he brought forward for a universal public health care system in Canada.  For many, many years, we have been so proud to lead the world with that system.  But now some in society continue to hold onto that vision to the detriment of every Albertan (and Canadian) that pays for and uses our precious public system – we need to move on folks – there are better ways!

On that note, I blame the unions and special interest groups who have destroyed any opportunity to have an honest discussion about how to move forward to fix the problems with the system.  There is a dishonest conversation happening in Alberta and across the country regarding public versus private healthcare and it’s really preventing us from moving forward.  Every time the government tries to move in a direction, a special interest group mounts a fear campaign scaring seniors, medical professionals or the general public.  It’s absolutely shameful and has less to do with serving the interests of the public and more to do with keeping healthcare public to keep a stronghold over labor.

I blame our immigration system, the Alberta Medical Association, various unions and other such groups for not being more flexible.  I grew up in the taxi industry and have known many foreign trained and highly experienced doctors who have not been able to participate in the medical system due to inadequate standards or language limitations.  I am not suggesting these people should be full blown doctors, nurses or other health professionals, but I am suggesting we can be more flexible with respect to allowing them to have limited roles in their industries until they gain the appropriate credentials to practice their field.  I’m suggesting that we have become a society of snobs, who hold up our training standards to a point of detriment to overall society.  That needs to change!

I blame Albertans for wanting universal healthcare and not wanting to pay for their share.  I work for an organization that provides health and dental insurance and the plan we provide only covers up to 80%.  Many of our members have asked for 100 per cent coverage, but we have said no.  People need to be responsible for their health and they need to personally contribute to that cost.  There is a very strong philosophical agreement here and it’s very sound.  People need to dish out some cash to pay for a portion of their health care costs – Period!

I feel like I can keep going on forever!

But I would like to end by blaming myself.  I am a highly engaged citizen and spend a lot of time helping PC Candidates because I believe in what the party stands for and believe Alberta is a great province because of the past 39 years of relatively strong governance – we’ve had our ups and downs, but who doesn’t have ups and down over almost 40 years!

But I haven’t spent enough time understanding the healthcare system and haven’t spent enough time fighting back and/or supporting what is being done.  This burden will be my generations to carry and we had better start paying more attention – the future of our province and country depend on it.  If a dishonest fear campaign is mounted to scare the government from moving forward in a good direction, my generation needs to fight back.  If a campaign of dishonesty is launched, we need to launch a campaign of facts.  If the government is making a wrong decision, we need to speak up as well.

We are all to blame for the state of the healthcare debate in this province and I challenge all of us to be pragmatic in trying to fix it.  This is a great challenge we face and we are better off fighting it together!

From today on, let’s focus on the solutions, let’s be experimental and let’s make some small mistakes and learn along the way.  But most importantly, let’s move away from the poisoned debate that surrounds this crisis by each taking some blame for how we got here.


Stories Are Gifts

I bought @ppilarski and me these mugs from Starbucks today. They are cute and got my attention. I was working on my thesis (which I can’t wait to share with all of you … be patient with me and keep sending me good vibes so I can finish asap), and noticed these mugs to my right. Cute little festive Christmas mugs that said “Stories are Gifts .. Share”. Wow. It got me thinking … and it also got me motivated to keep telling the story of my thesis and to keep blogging.

This week has been a trying one for active tweeters like me. I don’t usually like to share personal stories online. My personality is one that attempts to remain positive no matter what. But this week the online trolls almost won.

After sharing my health care experience from 5 years ago after being in a serious car accident I was told by several online that my story was insignificant and did not justify my reasoning for distracted driving legislation. I was a pedestrian struck by a car in a parking lot by an individual distracted at the wheel. This is no pitty party … I am a survivor and I am stronger after my accident than I ever was before. The accident reaffirmed who my friends were and taught me to appreciate those who love me and accept their love in whatever form they are giving it. It taught me that it was okay to count on people and that without people we are nothing. Without a story to tell we are nothing. Without our individuality we add nothing to a political party or movement. And without a story we have no authenticity on Twitter or Facebook.

Yes – my story is why I have become a strong advocate for the distracted driving legislation and why I was ecstatic that it passed in the house. The vote passed without a single member of the Wildrose Alliance Party in attendance and with the support of thousands upon thousands of Albertans – those politically engaged and those not.

Your support, or your disdain, for the legislation is about your own story. That story maybe your passion about libertarianism or about a fender bender you were in. Needless to say it is a story – one that consists of policy or one that is personal.

@ppilarski also shared a personal story this week – something out of the norm for himself as well. It was about his beautiful mother (a woman that was strong and vivacious, a survivor as well – one that I wish I could have met because I know we would have had a ball together … and she would be great assistance in distracting him during a game of cards) who passed away in an emergency room. This was no pitty party either – it was a part of his story and a part of his ER experience. In my opinion the emergency room story is a bad story for our government, but with a growing population and an ever increasing aging population it is a problem that will be one we will be fighting for a generation and I know we are trying. It is, in my opinion, a great story for the PC Party. MLA Raj Sherman spoke his mind and shared his story. I was proud after watching his speech in the legislature emergency debate. Although he did appear nervous, he did the right thing. The PC Party has evolved and voices like Raj and Doug Griffiths are valued and being listened to.

I’m proud of the stories that make @ppilarski and me who we are. It is because of our story we have this blog. It is because of our stories on the His and Her pages that we are engaged with politics.

I encourage you to think about your story – and share it with us here. I stress over and over again that the PC Party is one full of amazing individuals – each has a story.

Don’t let the online trolls get you down – they don’t have a story. Continue to stand strong and share yours. I’m going to keep at it – and I’d like to thank all of you that have been encouraging @ppilarski and I along the way. You have become a part of our stories … and “Stories are Gifts” … and I intend to keep giving.

CR xo