UCP narrowly passed a private-health-care resolution at its party convention. What that means for Alberta

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The New Democrats wasted little time seizing on the policy resolution: “Jason Kenney’s UCP is now committing itself to imposing an American-style health-care system on Albertans in the midst of a deadly pandemic,” thundered David Shepherd, the NDP’s health critic, in a press release Sunday.

The UCP does, in fact, have a policy position that would see some privatization of the health-care system. As part of the overall strategy for reducing costs of the nearly $21 billion health-care budget, the UCP is looking at private surgical facilities and day clinics to clear out the backlog of those awaiting certain procedures, such as orthopaedic surgeries.

If we approve this policy, it is going to cause a ton of grief for all MLAs who are working hard to deliver you results

In August, the province announced a privately funded $200 million private orthopaedic hospital, which would perform all non-emergency orthopaedic surgeries in the Edmonton region.

Saskatchewan has similarly experimented with private surgeries, and saw 98 per cent of surgeries done within six months, though more recently those wait times have climbed back up, which the province says is due to an aging population.

Other jurisdictions in Canada have experimented with two-tier systems. Quebec, for example, has private medical imaging. Other health-care spending across the country, such as dentistry, long-term care and prescription drugs, are also privatized.

Colleen Flood, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and the university research chair in health law and policy, said it’s not surprising that an “aging and relatively wealthy population” wants more from the public health-care system, and that alternatives come up when the public system seems unable to cope.

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