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Health Politics

Super Health Board, Not So Super

About nine months ago the Government of Alberta decided to fire the boards of the nine regional health authorities in the province and create a new “Super Health Board” they claimed would better serve the public.

Critics of the move predicted that it was a giant leap toward privatization of our health services. It hasn’t taken long but already the new board has begun dismantling our working public system.

The Super Board has announced plans to replace the Cytology Lab at the Lethbridge Regional Hospital with a private lab. The current Cytology Lab has an excellent record with excellent staff. No one locally wants this change, yet our shameful government wants to push forward with its privatization efforts at the cost of women’s health.

From a letter by Bev Muendel-Atherstone:

Our current Cytology Lab was started in 1951 by Dr. Ray Bainborugh, who is still alive today. In fact on Monday, March 30th, 2009, he was waiting outside the CRH parking lot to speak with the two fact finders for the Super Board. Dr. Bainborugh was able to tell reporters that the lab samples were previously sent to Calgary and Edmonton provincial Labs when he first started.

However, there were so many mistakes made, that he requested to be able to do the tests himself locally in Lethbridge. This was granted. He indicated he saved a woman from a Mastectomy as he redid the analysis on results he deemed “suspect.” Why would we in Lethbridge wish to go back to a system that did not work 58 years ago? That would be retrogressive.

If that weren’t enough to get you outraged, perhaps I should mention that the new Super Board (remember, they’ve been around for less than a year) just voted themselves a 25% raise. They’ll now make around $50,000 annually, plus an additional $750 per meeting that they attend (they meet about four times a month).

Not only are they dismantling a working system, they’ll take more money to do it. How can I feel anything but outrage? Please Alberta, stop voting for the party that cares more about money than public welfare.

In the meantime, I hope the Super Board comes to realize that the people don’t want privatized medicine in Alberta.

Update: Some great news from the local NDP office. Yesterday, Monday, June 1st, 2009, the Lethbridge City Council voted to support the NDP’s presentation and will write to Premier Stelmach to request that the Gynocological/Cytology Lab remain in Lethbridge.

Mayor Bob Tarleck indicated that he has been very concerned about the erosion or services in the rural areas and the “hollowing out” of the rural areas with services centralized in Calgary and Edmonton.

Of course, this does not mean that this issue is finished. But now we do have the municipality on side. This moves the entire issue into a bigger political field with the city complaining to the province. The province must respond and then it is in the city’s court from there.