Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping at yesterday’s news conference on the government’s hasty sounding “health workforce strategy” (Photo: Screenshot of Alberta Government video).

Only $8 million of the Alberta Government’s $158 million “health workforce strategy” announced yesterday is directed to the recruitment of nurses, arguably the most desperately needed component of the province’s health care workforce. 

By comparison, the United Conservative Party Government earmarked the lion’s share, $119 million, to attract and retain physicians to rural areas. 

Of that, the government said in its news release that $90 million will be directed to already existing (and by the sound of it not very effective) programs to retain and recruit rural physicians, with the remaining $29 million is going to finance a deal made last fall with the Alberta Medical Association to do much the same thing. 

Docs for cities? It would appear that’s not as much of a UCP priority, or perhaps not a priority at all, although since yesterday’s announcement of $158 million in spending only actually accounts for how $127 million of it will be used, maybe Alberta’s cities will get a little from the leftover $31 million. 

Still, what comes through most clearly from this is that the UCP is prepared to spend lavishly and inefficiently to shore up its perpetually disaffected rural base, and Alberta cities where most of the population lives can’t expect nearly as much of this new money. 

Whether the spending on rural docs announced yesterday will be particularly effective if rural hospitals have to close for lack of nursing staff is another matter, although presumably that impact won’t be obvious until after the expected May 29 provincial election. 

Of the $8 million devoted to recruiting nurses announced yesterday, $7 million of that will be “for the targeted recruitment of internationally trained nurses from the United States and the United Kingdom,” the government’s news release said. 

Good luck with that if the UCP isn’t prepared to pay nurses salaries that reflect the worldwide shortage of qualified members of their profession, especially Registered Nurses with emergency medicine and surgical experience.

It’s always astounding how a right-wing market fundamentalist political party like the UCP can’t seem to make itself understand the simple concept of supply and demand and its impact on prices.

As a result, the nursing brain drain is much more likely to run in the direction of the United States if recent behaviour by Conservative Alberta governments is taken into account. 

The $1 million “nurse navigator program” mentioned in yesterday’s release might be the same thing as a pilot program to set up “an Alberta assessment facility for internationally educated nurses” that was announced the day before yesterday.

However, that news release said only $200,000 would be budgeted for that program, so maybe instead of the same thing, it’s a different and more expensive version of the same thing. Hard to tell. But it does raise the question of whether the government proposes to do both.

Readers are justified to wonder what the heck is going on. The likely answer is that this was the UCP’s panicky response to the NDP Leader and former premier Rachel Notley’s effective Family Health Teams announcement on Wednesday.

Indeed, Health Minister Jason Copping could have been reading right out of the NDP’s Family Health Teams booklet when he told yesterday’s government news conference that “Alberta’s health workforce strategy is a co-ordinated forward-looking path to ensure every Albertan has access to a health home, and that we have the work force in place to deliver the high-quality services Albertans need today and in the future regardless of where you live.” 

Only, in the government’s case, it was without much of an actual plan about how to make it happen. 

It’s probably a safe bet that the UCP will announce the same spending several more times in varying combinations. 

Voters are advised to keep their eyes on the walnut shells. The bean is probably under one of them. 

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  1. The UCPs health care problems go back to a few years ago when they started a war with doctors and other health care workers. Its not so much a political problem, as some of that is now forgotten or not as top of mind. It is more a practical problem.

    Rural doctors and other health care workers are not easy to find and keep at the best of times. The UCPs war against them prompted a number of long term doctors and other health care workers to feel unappreciated and look to other places, retire or cut back their work loads. Certain billing changes hit rural doctors hard and the billing caps made some cap their workload.

    So the UCP facing an election is now desperately trying to clean up the mess they created. It is going to be hard to quickly recruit many rural doctors and nurses. However, rural voters are not going to be very happy if they continue to have emergency closures and reduced hours due to staff shortages.

    The UCPs war on the health care system has probably hurt rural communities more than bigger cities. Also these communities often have older populations with more health care needs. If rural voters are going to be uneasy if their local hospital will be open when they need it, the UCP should be very uneasy too. In this case, they are not really helping those people whose votes they generally take for granted.

    1. Unfortunately, many rural areas will always vote UCP no matter what happens. I live in a riding like that. Oil talks. Trudeau bashing talks. Poor Alberta talks.

      Local emergency departments and certain services (in multiple local hospitals) are regularly closed. It makes no difference. Here, UCP is good and NDP is bad. Period.

  2. Notice how the UCP tries to resolve the problems they create, right before a provincial election in Alberta. There are gullible people who buy what the UCP tries to sell them. You can’t get any more foolish than that.

  3. I read the Lethbridge News article that DJC linked. It looks very generous, with 1% per year compensation increases (that’s generous for the UCP) and many items of increased spending in support of rural doctors. This is good. It means the UCP has backed away from Jason Kenney’s War on Doctors—for now. Could it be that Danielle Smith has personal experience, from living in a rural town, of what it means to NOT have a family doctor?

  4. The latest UCP promise to throw money at recruiting drives is simplistic, fast and easy to say—but unlikely to succeed. Medical professionals are in demand worldwide. Even worse, Canada seems bound and determined to block foreign-trained doctors and nurses from getting jobs here.

    Well and good, the UCP are looking to replace the doctors they chased out. Where will they come from? We await the flood of CV’s….

  5. Considering that Danielle Smith intended to be a premier for rural interests (Apart from those of the O & G lobby) it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they are going to dump that Horn O’Plenty in the pursuit of health care workers for rural areas — cities be damned, of course. And if the crisis in the cities is equally as bad as it is in the rural areas, well double-damn those city slickers and their special interests.

    I’m sure it’s beginning to sink in that those much-vaunted health spending accounts are not as lusted for as once thought. If anything, it appears that the average Albertan, surprisingly, knows a scam when they see it after all. I’m sure there will be an abundance of announcements in the weeks to come, all totally connected to public healthcare.

    The ABNDP’s call for one million Albertans to have their own family doctor got the attention of the UCP. It’s looks their original plan of certifying faithhealers as medical professionals isn’t getting the traction once thought.

    The next election will be fought over healthcare, but the real question on the minds of voters should be who broke and wrecked public healthcare in the first place?

    1. Just: I sat in on some well-run rural focus groups on health care a few years ago. It was quickly evident that the participants had a thorough and sophisticated understanding of just how much they benefit from public health care. That said, that was before the Q-virus infected Alberta and turned many rural residents into zombies. DJC

  6. Is the UCP schizophrenic? On the one hand, they attack all those who work in healthcare, to the point that many leave province. All of which was denied by the UCP. Now they are spending money as bandaids to make it look like they are trying to improve healthcare. So which is it? Cut or build? David, you are correct when you point out the fact that the UCP want to appear as though they are fiscal conservatives. However, perhaps their true ideological bent is to think that everything in the public trust is just plain wrongheaded and that private business is the correct way to go. Seems like they really want to go ahead with a full business approach as per their past: The War Room, money to big oil, attack on doctors, lawyers, and attack on anyone who spoke out about sharing for goodness sake “We are capitalists, not socialists” Kenney stated. Yes, with the UCP it is profit and self above all else. Easy to see that all the money they are spending is to buy the May election should it happen because every penny they are spending flies in the face of their true fascist ideology. Guess Klein taught the world that Albertans can be bought and the UCP have certainly learned that lesson.
    If and it is a big if, the NDP win the next election by the skin of their teeth the UCP and their supporters will make Notely’s life a living hell, including regular death threats just like they did before.
    Sadly, or gladly depending upon your point of view, many people in Alberta are extremist fanatics who have voted in the same political party, or variations thereof, for over forty years – where else does this happen? This happens in places we call tyrannical dictatorships, communist countries, petrol states, and corrupt countries. Seems to me that most Albertans are happy to support people who have it in for them because they are truly fanatics and beyond all reason.

    1. GWR, I’ve often thought that some (not all!) Albertans seem to believe they deserve to be punished for something. I haven’t seen anything since Dannie became Queen of Qberduh to change my mind.

  7. I have just one question. It seems to me Deluded Danielle has the rural ridings stitched up. But the cities are an uncertain lot for the UCP. So why isn’t the UCP trying to entice the urban voters of Calgary, Lethbridge, and Medicine Hat. You can’t win government without some of these seats and their voters? Hey, I am not a professional strategist anymore, but just asking.

    1. I’m guessing because they know even if they lose only a handful of rural ridings, they may just lose most of them. Albertans in my experience tend to stick together, the idea of rural NDP MLAs seems ridiculous, until it happens, and that could start a shift in rural Alberta that until now would be unprecedented. I think the actual brain trust understands they cannot even have the perception of weakness in the rural
      Ridings of this province, which I also think for them is a bad sign.

      The fact is, rural Alberta is no longer the socially – religious conservative place that it was even twenty years ago. Those people still exist, but the demographic shift North America has seen away from Christianity in particular hasn’t skipped Alberta. Those folks have money and power , particularly organizational power on a riding level, but they know that power
      Is slipping here just as it is in the american heartland and they’re desperate to hang on to the gerrymandered districts they count on to win elections.

  8. Premier Danielle Smith is getting rid of AHS bureaucracy.. Started with the Board- a set of Political Bureaucrats. Check the qualifications of the Board members- business people and lawyers-check their qualification to making Health Care decisions. she is going to do the same with the GoA—the root cause of our issues in Health Care and Public Service.

    1. Sir: you’ve been drinking too much pre-UCP Wildrose Kool-Aid. Alberta Health Services, by virtuous being a single, full-integrated, province-wide health authority, has the lowest administrative overhead of any health system in Canada. (Want to talk about excess administration in health care? Maybe look at the Roman Catholic Church-run but provincially-funded Covenant Health … which has its own, autonomous Board of Directors, chaired by former Premier Ed Stelmach … its own CEO, Patrick Dumelie … and a parallel organizational chart to that of AHS).

      As a front-line Registered Nurse, I rely on my Manager for everything from supplies and equipment to do my job, to hiring my colleagues to contribute to the work I do. My Manager reports to a Patient Care Director who has a number of other Managers reporting to them, and that Director in turn reports to a Senior Operating Officer that has a bunch of other Directors reporting to them … and so on up the org chart to the CEO. You can’t have a management structure that is too flat in an organization the size of AHS, with over 100,000 employees and physicians.

      There’s a concept in management theory called “span of control”: how many direct reports does any middle or upper manager or senior leader have? Too few is inefficient, but too many means they can’t really have a handle on what’s going on in the departments and divisions under them. This is particularly crucial in an organization that is spread as widely as AHS, with hospitals, home care offices and public health offices distributed into virtually every city and town between the US border and the NWT, and between Saskatchewan and BC.

      We need those people to ensure we have what we need to do our jobs. As a staff nurse, I don’t want to be signing off on purchase orders for new ventilators or patient food services equipment, or signing my coworkers’ payroll, or hiring my replacement when I retire. That’s what management does for the system, and they’re just as important as the staff they are leading. There’s an irreducible number of administrators that the system needs to have, and I sometimes think AHS might even be a bit too light in this area, when I look at the often glacial pace of decision-making in the organization.

  9. Off-topic, but some very dangerous rhetoric being used by Poilievre:

    ‘On the topic of Chinese interference in Canada’s democracy, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said Friday: “It’s clear that Justin Trudeau has been covering up the interference of the authoritarian regime in Beijing.”

    “He claims he never knew anything about it, but is it really believable? Is it really believable that CSIS would write an entire report and share it with foreign governments without actually telling our own prime minister,” Poilievre said.

    “Justin Trudeau knew about this interference, and he covered it up because he benefited from it.”’

    I’ve spoken before about how I find Skippy loathsome in a way that I have never felt about a candidate for PM, including Harper, who was a responsible, boring adult by comparison. I could easily imagine this being said by Tucker Carlson. This is reckless, inflammatory and dangerous. It undermines our ability to have a functional society, or even a reasonable conversation. When people try to destroy the very concept of truth, it is always because they know the truth is not on their side.

    You want to vote Justin out, do it, more power to ya. You want to convince others to also vote him out, attabederbie, that’s some good democracying!!!! You want to call him a turdgobbling scavenger with the world’s most punchable face, I might mildly caution against violent rhetoric in politics. You want to spread farfetched conspiracy theories that are also accusations of very serious crimes in a way that undermines both Canada’s national security and the ability of Canadians to communicate with each other or trust their electoral system? We are not going to be friends.

    I have no doubt that the Chinese government would have formerly preferred just about anyone to the Conservatives, which really helps me appreciate the irony here. As far as President Xi’s government is concerned, this is one of the better outcomes they could have hoped for, and he owes it to Poilievre. Canada’s ‘enemies’ on the world stage don’t care at all about our partisan politics, they care about what will weaken Canada, and right now it looks like the Conservatives are where to put the smart money if that’s your preferred outcome. When responsible adults who disagree about some things realize they have a shared enemy with whom they disagree about most things, they put aside their grievances for the duration of the crisis and cooperate. I really wish the Conservatives would stop going out of their way to make Trudeau look like an adult by comparison with them, I don’t like it at all. Stop trying to make me like Justin, Conservatives! It’s not gonna happen!

    We can now reasonably expect two simultaneous social media influence campaigns (that’s when a foreign actor who doesn’t care about either side amplifies the voices of the most extreme people on either end to spread disunity and rebellion among citizens so that instead of being able to act on the world’s stage, the victim government has their hands full with crises at home). Russia and China are both going to see this as a fantastic opportunity to weaken Canada for very little cost.

    Pierre’s been an MP for, what, 22 years? He knows more about this stuff than I do! Maybe he has looked at Canada’s demographics, thought about the age of his voters, thought about the FPTP system, and concluded that the CPC can’t win a fair election. Maybe he’s laying the groundwork for a bunch of baseless claims of electoral fraud in our next election. That said, he’s never struck me as the “playing the long game” type. 22 years in power, the only meaningful legislation with his name on it was the Fair Elections Act, a transparent attempt at voter suppression. He wasn’t point man on that bill because he was the best the Conservatives had, but because he was the only one shameless enough to do it.

    Ugh. Meet Dark Millhouse, an unscrupulous greasy fork-tongued weasel who’s never worked an honest day in his life and is willing to undermine and destroy his own country if it will get him one step closer to the big boy chair.

    There is no need at all for conspiracy theories to explain the results of the last two elections, or any others. The CPC has spent years intentionally misinforming their voters about things like climate change, carbon taxes, institutional racism, national security, sound fiscal policy, etc etc etc. As their voters descend farther and farther into their shared fantasy, they become less and less relatable to people who don’t live in the same information silo they do, and eventually lose the ability to communicate with others entirely. As more sensible people look around the room and realize they don’t want to hang out with the people who remail, those who remain lose what voices of reason they did have and become even further radicalized, and the lies they are fed get ever-more outlandish and incendiary, until they are operating according to a set of “facts” that lack any evidence to support them, but do enable unscrupulous politicians to parasitically feed off their supporters.

    The other easily understandable reason the CPC lost is because their voters are heavily concentrated in a few areas, and I actually do sympathize with them on that. I think they should have supported efforts at electoral reform so that they wouldn’t be stuck under a system that wastes most of the votes they get.

    1. Neil– I know what you mean about PP…he is bad for my blood pressure…and the most frustrating part is that not enough people realize just how bad he is…for Democracy, for Canada.
      Every time I hear from him that “Canada is broken, u want to tell him in no uncertain terms, well then —LEAVE– nobody is stopping you, go south, I’m sure your rhetoric will go over well down there.
      And the irony of him going on about China, after Stephen Harper signing a secret 40 yr deal with them in 2012 , in Vladivostok of all places— I wish all his supporters would think about that little scenario for awhile…and all it implies. As a member of Stephens cabinet, or as he liked being called “Harper’s chihuahua ” ( Google).. .and having SH indorse him…well….
      IMPO– I still think there’s way too much going on behind the scenes that the public has no clue about, for those of us who take the time to search for answers, there’s alot to find. PP’S supporters are always on about the WEF , yet none of them know or seem concerned about the UDI ,and why SH is so friendly with the UAE,and what agreements he’s signed with them (2019) .He certainly is getting around since he ‘left office ‘….
      And why did PP decide to come to Calgary the day before the EA report was due ? Safety with his old boss ? Maybe thinking if things go wrong Danielle’s Sovereignty act would protect him from being extradited back to Canada ? you know, for supporting the seditionists??
      If I understood it right, he’s in Calgary for 2 wks, probably more $1700 luncheons, and with SH ,Preston, Dani and the gang, I’m sure they’re cooking up more that will make us cringe.
      And as far as the elections, both his and Dani’s supporters are already doing the rump thing of saying fake results, if Danielle doesn’t win, it’s been rigged …and setting up for the next federal election, which going by PP’S campaigning, you would think it was in May 2023….pretty scary stuff coming from him. I just sincerely hope that more people are getting informed about just what a dangerous precedent he is setting with the edited videos, mistruths, and bashing of the media.
      #defund Pierre
      my $34 @ year, ( what it costs per person in Canada)for CBC news is definitely better spent, than what we the taxpayers are spending on him with his free mansion, private chef & chauffeur, jet setting across Canada and only speaking to his select audiences…. “but I stand for all Canadians , I’m going to give you back your freedom ”
      funny that, I didn’t know I’d lost it, how very odd…

      1. Randi-lee:
        Bingo! You are bang-on. So many spiderwebs behind the scenes. Harper is the puppet master and the connections (provincially and federally) are astounding. I keep saying how the information is not being widely and repeatedly broadcast enough to make an impact on the decision-making of the general public who are not inclined to dig. This will cost AB the next election. I don’t know about federally.

    2. Neil…follow up…just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, — National Post—bleeech!! , Conrad Black is saying PP is right for thrashing CBC ….oye boje!!! groan…

      1. Well, if there was no CBC, Canada’s media ecosystem would be Postmedia, Black Press Media (owned by Conrad), and then… I dunno, the Tyee? The Beaverton? What I’m saying is that even if he didn’t like PP, destroying the CBC is absolutely in the business interests of all of the privately owned propaganda empires.

    3. Dangerous and gross? Yes. Slick and effective? Yes. These sound bites and his rhetoric work on a wide swath of people. My conservative riding eats it up. This is how the UCP won the last election. This is how they will win the next one. As for federal, I hope there are many smarter people out there.

      1. Comment: well just to lighten the mood—PP’S latest tweet, about
        “paycheque pizza ” , border security should call him out for plagiarism, because it’s from an article –CTV Windsor Jan 18/2019
        about Canadian border security taking pizza to their US counterparts…
        I’m not on social media, hopefully someone else will find this, I’m still chuckling…

  10. Where do most rural residents have to go for the advanced medical tests and treatments by specialists? The big bad cities. That’s where. Certainly, not in Hooterville. I know, because I come from a rural area.

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