Monday, May 12, 2008

No immediate cash for the Calgary Health Region says Premier Ed Stelmach

CALGARY — The urgent need for cash outlined by the Calgary Health Region is also being experienced in other Alberta cities, says Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach.

Stelmach was in Calgary on Tuesday and received a tour of the new Alberta Children's Hospital from chairman Jack Davis.

"It was in September of 2000 that then minister of Infrastructure Ed Stelmach phoned the Calgary Health Region and said the funds for the new children's hospital would be made available," said Davis.

"So we were very pleased today to be able to tour the premier and his wife around the children's hospital to see what that commitment's resulted in."

Davis has been looking for about $190 million from the province to deal with the dire problems he outlined during the last election campaign.

Calgary's three main hospitals had been struggling with seriously overcrowded emergency rooms, forcing patients to queue in hallways on stretchers.

Stelmach told reporters that he isn't making any commitments until after Health Minister Ron Liepert finishes his review of the health-care system. He said it's not just Calgary that is feeling the pinch.

"There are unique issues in every regional health authority in the province of Alberta," conceded Stelmach.

"If you go to Fort McMurray, you will hear Fort McMurray say you are extracting our resources and you're not returning enough here," he said. "If you go to Grande Prairie, it's the same issues. Every region has the same issue that we have in Calgary."

Both Liepert and Stelmach have stressed that there must be changes to get a handle on spiralling costs that have hit $13 billion. That means the province is spending a third of its budget on health care, but there are still long wait times and shortages of doctors and nurses.

"We have to find a way to make is sustainable and everybody tells us that if you are going to be increasing your budgets year by year and eventually you double it," he said. "If you double it, which department do you take out?"

Stelmach has said such a financial burden will eventually hinder the government from moving on other priority areas such as education. He said there is a reason the Capital Health Regional in Edmonton receives $110 million a year more than Calgary.

"The formula is quite complex. It looks at the socio-economic structure of the region," he explained. "There are differences in aboriginal community service and seniors. There are a whole bunch of different factors into the formula."

Canadian Press

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