Calgary Herald: Calgary way behind in mental health beds, but Edmonton gets more

“It literally happens every single day in Calgary,” says David Swann, the Liberal MLA and former public health physician who wrote a report on mental health care for the government.

“Just ask any EMS worker or police officer. They deal constantly with these extremely sick people. And there’s no place for them in the setting they need.”

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Statement on the conclusion of the Spring Sitting of the Legislature

Alberta Liberal Opposition caucus leader David Swann has released the following statement on the conclusion of the Spring Sitting of the Third Session of the 29th Legislature:

“The Spring Sitting saw the government introduce a number of new initiatives as well as amendments to previous legislation. There were a few common-sense administrative changes, some welcome improvements, which I supported, and a couple of politically-motivated pieces that I did not believe were in the best interest of Albertans.

“Budget 2017 did not strike the right balance. While it protected public services, it increased deficit spending to record levels with no clear plan to pay down the debt or save for the future. Overall, it rewarded government allies at the expense of taxpayers and the principles of sound fiscal management.

“There was broad support when the government announced it would eliminate school fees for all students. However, once Bill 1, An Act to Reduce School Fees, was introduced and the details examined, it was clear that the NDP were creating two sets of rules – one for ‘public’ schools, and another for charter and private schools. I challenged them on not being transparent about their plans and not treating all students equally.

“In Bill 2, An Act to Remove Barriers for Survivors of Sexual and Domestic Violence, the government wisely expanded limitation periods for seeking justice in the courts based on sexual misconduct, assault or battery. I introduced an amendment to try to broaden the categories of survivors to include those in positions of trust or authority such as relationships between professors and adult students.

“The NDP introduced an ideologically-driven ban on paid plasma donations in Bill 3, Voluntary Blood Donation Act, which will not ensure a safer or more sustainable supply of plasma. Alberta currently imports 80 per cent of its plasma products from clinics in the United States which pay donors. There is absolutely no way for the government to replace this capacity with volunteer donors. Systems allowing for paid plasma donations have had success in other jurisdictions without any of the adverse effects that the NDP are raising as justification for this bill.

“For many years, Alberta Liberals proposed the creation of a builder licensing system with an online registry. Bill 12, New Home Buyer Amendment Act, made this a reality, but stopped short of including information about warranty claims against a builder and any legal proceedings against a builder for structural defects, defects in materials or labour or any deficiency related to the construction of a new home.

“My Motion 502 was aimed at changing the way the Regulated Rate Option is calculated to the weighted average of the wholesale pool price, which, as significant research has shown, would deliver lower overall prices to consumers and reinforce the competitive market. The NDP chose instead to put a price cap on the rate, which hides the true cost of power, and ultimately has to be paid by the taxpayer.

“Bill 205, Advocate for Persons with Disabilities Act, was a well-intentioned Private Members’ Bill that the government adopted, but it did not go far enough. I proposed the creation of a new officer of the legislature, much like the Child and Youth Advocate, citing concerns over independence from government and having the necessary budget to fulfill its mandate.

“From day one, I advocated for a stronger, more co-ordinated response to the opioid crisis, including declaring a state of emergency, appointing new leadership, better data reporting, and investing more resources into prevention and treatment. I am pleased that the government has finally taken much-needed action, but there is still more to be done. We need to see a comprehensive plan to get ahead of this, one that isn’t based on what is politically palatable, but what is medically necessary.

“The Auditor General released a report on Better Healthcare for Albertans, which gives us some valuable insights into the long-standing flaws of our healthcare system. It clearly highlights a need to better co-ordinate our primary, acute and continuing care systems to ensure improved access to care and communication among care providers, smoother navigation through the system, and better overall health outcomes.

“Twice, I advocated to amend Bill 17, Fair and Family-Friendly Workplace Act, to extend employment standards such as overtime provisions and mandatory rest periods to paid farm and ranch workers. Shockingly, the NDP took the easy way out, fearing a backlash from the agricultural lobby, and failed to protect these workers when it mattered.

“The Ministerial Panel on Child Intervention met numerous times with stakeholders to listen to those affected by their interaction with the child intervention system. Bill 18, Child Protection and Accountability Act, incorporated the first phase of the panel’s recommendations related to reviewing the deaths of children and young people in care.

“Finally, the Session ended with the selection of a new Alberta Liberal Party leader, David Khan, who will have the responsibility of leading the party forward into the next provincial election. In the meantime, I have the honour of continuing to lead all caucus activities in the Assembly.”


Statement on Announcement to create an Opioid Emergency Response Commission

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann released the following statement in response to the creation of an Opioid Emergency Response Commission:

“This announcement is a clear admission that the government’s piecemeal response to the opioid crisis has not been sufficient.

“There has been a dramatic increase in opioid-related deaths in Alberta over the last four years, claiming close to two lives per day. Thirteen deaths are being prevented daily by life-saving interventions.

“If this is not an emergency, I do not know what is. Yet the government still refuses to send a formal message to the public about the seriousness of this crisis by declaring a state of emergency.

“The minister repeatedly said it was not necessary because the government already had enough resources to deal with this crisis. Now, she claims this new plan will give her expanded powers, but it is unclear what they are, if they will be enough, and how this is superior to declaring a state of emergency.

“Instead of releasing a clear, comprehensive strategic plan with clearly defined targets, timelines, and accountability measures, the NDP chose to pass the buck to an advisory panel that will provide the minister with political cover.

“While the commission is comprised of accomplished experts, all of whom are standouts in their fields, surely the government has already consulted with these experts in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

“This is another level of bureaucracy that reports to the minister instead of guiding action on the frontlines, which is what the re-establishment of a chief mental health and addictions officer and the declaration of a state of emergency would do.

“At the very least, we should have received an update on the recommendations of the Valuing Mental Health Report submitted 16 months ago, several of which directly address this issue.”


CBC: Alberta government to announce ‘aggressive’ plan to tackle opioid crisis

David Swann, the leader of the Alberta Liberals, said he’s looking forward to hearing what the provincial government has planned.

“If they would work together more effectively in a comprehensive approach and a thoughtful plan and some ongoing evaluation of what’s happening, I would be happy,” Swann said.

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Statement on Auditor General’s Better Healthcare for Albertans Report

Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann released the following statement in response to the Auditor General’s report on Better Healthcare for Albertans:

“I applaud the Office of the Auditor General for conducting this insightful and timely analysis of the root causes behind lack of progress towards the effective integration of health care in Alberta. It speaks volumes about the value of a truly independent officer of the Legislative Assembly and its ability to investigate and report directly to Albertans.

“The report clearly highlights a need to better co-ordinate our primary, acute and continuing care systems to ensure improved access to care and communication among care providers, smoother navigation through the system, and better overall health outcomes.

“We need to reduce barriers to care, involve people in their healthcare decisions, and make sure the right level and quality of care is being provided in the right place, by the right health professional at the right time.

“It is clear that much more work still needs to be done promoting wellness, injury and disease prevention, and chronic disease management. Albertans need multidisciplinary teams that are interconnected, patient-focused and follow a single, consistent care plan.

“The report also explicitly states spending more money on healthcare is not the solution. This undoubtedly means that there must be more accountability for the administrative and financial performance of our system, including physician compensation, billing, and ordering of lab and diagnostic tests.

“There is also the opportunity for innovation, better integration of clinical information systems, and use of health data analytics to inform decision-making and ensure we have the best performing public healthcare system possible.

“I share the optimism of this report. Change is not only possible, it is absolutely necessary. It is incumbent on the government of the day to embrace change, commit to honest and transparent reporting of system performance, and depoliticize healthcare funding, infrastructure projects and service delivery.

“Operating in silos has proven to be ineffective. We must work together. Alberta Health, AHS, and the all of the healthcare associations and colleges must seek to improve their communication, co-ordination and co-operation.

“Elected representatives, government officials, healthcare providers, and patients all have an important part to play in ensuring improved access, quality and sustainability of the system and making Better Healthcare for Albertans a reality.”