According to Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, apparently all we need to do to find anesthesiologists willing to work in rural Alberta is hand the power to hire them over local hospital managers.
“If we had managers at that local facility making decisions for the community about what services should be provided in that community, I’m convinced they would find the people,” Ms. Smith told a group of doubtless bemused reporters after a luncheon address to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce yesterday.
“They’d find the anesthesiologists,” she said, according to the CBC’s transcription.* “They’d find the staffing.”
“That’s the reason why you need more management closer to home at each individual hospital,” she rambled on.
Never mind the national shortage of anesthesiologists – the high-paid specialist physicians who administer anaesthetic drugs and keep patients alive before, during, and immediately after surgery – that’s causing delays of surgeries everywhere in Canada.
And never mind that it’s always been hard to find medical and surgical specialists willing to live outside big cities, let alone one-horse towns on the Canadian Prairies – a fact that elsewhere in her chat with the media, Ms. Smith admits is so.
Or that there are already managers at every one of those rural hospitals that are cancelling surgeries because they can’t find an anesthesiologist.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, knows this is bonkers. That includes Ms. Smith. She no more believes that if you hand the problem of finding anesthesiologists over to a local hospital manager, presto chango, the law of supply and demand will be suspended than do the readers of this column.
But stick a mike in her face and she’s likely to blurt out a lot of strange little pearls of wisdom like that, outright contradictions, and even the occasional thing that makes sense.
It’s a measure of her contempt for Alberta voters, I suppose, which some would argue is justified.
In a short clip posted by Postmedia, Ms. Smith says of her AHS decentralization scheme: “It’s a matter of building a system where you’ve got local decision-makers at each facility, building into a regional system where decisions are made in a region, building into a province-wide system, where everything is integrated.”
She sounds convincing throughout. But read that again, slowly, and think about it. It’s a kind of word salad that might be called stream of unconsciousness.
I’m convinced that Ms. Smith does this when she’s trying to deceive her listeners about what she really has in mind.
In this case, what she has in mind isn’t so much decentralization, as being able to use local conditions to justify dangerous and unpopular health care policy decisions and destructive privatization schemes while keeping her United Conservative Party’s anti-vaccine, anti-abortion base sweet.
Unsurprisingly, there is no press release on the Government of Alberta website about what Ms. Smith had to say to the reporters yesterday, and Alberta Health Services told journalists who bothered to call that they didn’t really have anything to say about it either. Well, you can hardly blame them for that, since they’re already Ms. Smith’s No. 1 whipping boy.
Indeed, I suspect Ms. Smith would still like to set up a purge of public health managers who led the fight against COVID-19, a topic on which she still entertains bizarre conspiracy fantasies.
And speaking of COVID conspiracy theories, the executive director of the Premier’s Office, former Wildrose Party House Leader Rob Anderson – best known these days for his Alberta separatist fantasies – is in hot water for tweeting praise for Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a notorious anti-vaxx crank who has launched a Democratic Party presidential primary bid and is well known for remarks characterized as anti-Semitic and racist.
NDP Diversity Critic Lizette Tejada condemned support for “these baseless, hateful comments from Robert F. Kennedy” – Junior, that is, since his father was a great man.
She demanded Mr. Anderson remove his commentary about them. But, really, he should be required to leave it right where it is, so that voters can be reminded of what he said in the future.
Apparently Mr. Anderson missed the part where Mr. Kennedy, who got his start as an environmental lawyer before veering off into COVID and anti-vaccine nuttery, called oil from Alberta’s bitumen “the dirtiest oil in the world.”
*There are noticeable, but not significant, differences between the CBC’s and Postmedia’s transcription of Ms. Smith’s post luncheon remarks. I wasn’t there. So I flipped a coin and went with the CBC’s. I provided my own transcription of the quote from the Postmedia video clip. There appears to be no public copy of a recording of the premier’s remarks to the Chamber, from which media accounts also provided no quotes. DJC