David Swann response to the Q3 Opioid Report

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann released the following statement in response to the Q3 Opioid and Substances of Misuse Report:

“With each passing quarterly report, it becomes painfully obvious that the NDP government does not have a handle on the opioid crisis. A nine per cent increase in fentanyl overdose deaths from last quarter is unacceptable, and a forty per cent yearly increase is nothing short of a disaster.

“Despite these troubling facts, the NDP fails to treat this with the urgency and importance it deserves, choosing, instead, to rely on a piecemeal, reactive response to this crisis.

“It has rejected my call for the reinstatement of a Chief Addictions and Mental Health Officer to manage this crisis and guide actions on the frontlines in favour of an advisory commission.

“It refuses to declare a state of emergency, which may not give any additional legal powers, but would be of immense symbolic value. Affected families and organizations – as well as all opposition caucuses – have advocated for this declaration, but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

“As Alberta approaches two overdose deaths per day, every report, and awareness event organized by groups such as Moms Stop the Harm and Changing the Face of Addiction remind us of the tragic impact of these preventable deaths and the trail of sorrow that follows in their wake.

“People are dying. I cannot emphasize enough that the decisions government makes are literally a matter of life and death. We need better leadership, more coordinated and comprehensive action, and we need it now!”


More action needed to drive down Alberta’s high-cost dental care

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann says more action is needed to drive down unacceptably high-cost dental care.

“We need a strong mandate for change in order to drive down unacceptably high-cost dental care in Alberta,” says Swann. “Instead, the NDP seems content just to tweak the status quo.

“They made an easy decision, rather than showing the real leadership Albertans need from their government today.”

Swann’s comments come in reaction to a government announcement unveiling revisions to the new fee guide that the Alberta Dental Association and College (ADAC) released to the public without ministerial input in August.

“Having a fee guide that more accurately reflects average prices and client expectations is good, but does little to resolve the problem of high, unregulated dental costs, including outrageous hygienist fees,” says Swann. “It will take a year or more to see if the guide will have any effect. Meanwhile, Albertans will still pay through the nose, since dentists can ultimately charge whatever they want.”

Swann points out there are many obstacles to overcome even with a new fee guide in place.

“Making an informed consumer decision is harder than both the ADAC and the government would have you believe,” says Swann. “Dentists should be required to discuss prices up front and publicly list their standard prices in comparison to the Fee Guide.

“If the government is serious about making dental health care affordable for the majority of Albertans, it needs to apply more pressure to lower costs, encourage open competition and ensure greater accountability for these high fees.”

Swann has been a vocal advocate for reducing dental fees in Alberta. He recently wrote to the Minister of Health to encourage her to take a stronger stand and press the ADAC to liberalize dental advertising rules, as well as consider separating the ADAC into separate entities.

Given the extreme demands on public dental services there is also clearly a need to increase public funding for services to children and low-income Albertans.

Swann’s letter and the Minister’s reply are available for viewing here on the Liberal Opposition website.


NDP must step up for public fertility services

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann has released the following statement on the cutting of services at the Edmonton Regional Fertility and Women’s Endocrine Clinic at the Royal Alexandra Hospital:

“Yesterday, I was immediately concerned when we were contacted by email with concerns about potential service cuts at the Edmonton Regional Fertility and Women’s Endocrine Clinic at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. Later that evening, a document surfaced on Twitter appearing to confirm this rumour.

“Today, I join with affected patients and the Friends of Medicare in expressing my disappointment with this decision. And, while I appreciate this maintains support for existing public programs, I am calling on Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman to step up for public health care and bolster public fertility services.

“According to the federal government, roughly 16 per cent, or 1 in 6, of couples in Canada experience infertility. This number has doubled since the 1980s. In Alberta, the cost associated with fertility treatments are completely borne by patients.

“That is why, prior to the 2015 provincial election, Alberta Liberals identified infertility funding as a major policy priority and recognized that funding of fertility treatments such as Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) was necessary to ensure families who require treatment have reasonable and fair access to treatment.

“The NDP must do more to help Albertans facing infertility in the public health care system, instead of offloading them onto the private sector.”


Statement on announcement of approval of safe injection sites in Calgary

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann released the following statement in reaction to the government’s announcement on supervised injection sites in Calgary today:

“Calgary is the city that has been hardest-hit by Alberta’s opioid crisis. As such, harm reduction measures like safe consumption sites is welcome news. And, certainly, the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre is an excellent choice for this important work.

“Finally, we are seeing this critical service that is long overdue. These sites will undoubtedly improve safety and save lives.”

“However, one is not enough, we need more of these harm reduction and treatment measures in Calgary and throughout the province, especially in smaller urban centres.

“We also need more culturally appropriate services since Indigenous peoples are a significantly impacted community.

“When nearly two lives are lost each day to this scourge, there is a clear need to move more quickly and effectively.

“We need to increase and integrate more resources if we hope to get ahead of this crisis.”


Statement from Dr. David Swann on supervised consumption site approvals

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann released the following statement in reaction to the approval of supervised consumption sites in Edmonton and Lethbridge:

“These approvals are welcome news. I have long called for harm-reduction measures to be implemented in this province as a key component of a coordinated plan to manage the steadily worsening opioid crisis.

“However, the continued delays are deeply disappointing. I find myself asking: if federal approval was the only hold-up for a supervised consumption site, why the months-long gap between the site being approved and opening its doors?

“The lack of sites for Calgary, where opioid overdoses continue to claim the most lives, is troubling. As I’ve said before, access to harm reduction measures must be further expanded. While I’m glad to see a site opening in Lethbridge, other smaller urban centres and rural areas, where wait times are still too long and mental health care much less available, are badly in need of these facilities.”


Opioid Programs Need Further Expansion, Less Politics

Alberta Liberal MLA David Swann released the following statement on the expansion of Alberta’s opioid dependency treatment programs:

“$4.6 million in additional resources to combat the opioid crisis is undoubtedly welcome news. I am pleased to see that Edmonton and Calgary centres will receive more support, enabling them to reduce wait times for in-patient and outpatient treatment as part of the larger solution.

“However, access to harm reduction measures needs to be further expanded, particularly in smaller urban centres and rural areas where wait times are still too long and mental health care much less available.

“As I have said many times following each of these one-off announcements, this is an emergency situation requiring an evidence-based, co-ordinated and comprehensive public strategy – not a reactive, piecemeal approach.

“The government is failing to make significant headway in reducing the overall number of overdoses, which continues to rise each quarter. Combined with delays in supervised consumption sites, Alberta is clearly not drawing on all needed resources and treating this matter with the urgency and importance it deserves.

“Opioid addiction and abuse is quite literally a matter of life and death, yet the government habitually releases reports and makes announcements on the opioid crisis with barely any notice, and at times when they will receive the least amount of public attention.

“For example, conducting these activities just prior to a holiday weekend sends the wrong message to Albertan and belies the severity, urgency, and importance of the opioid crisis.

“As one of the most important issues facing Alberta and Canada today, we need to be very conscious and cautious about even the appearance of playing politics with people’s lives.

“Whether it comes to addressing concerns over the location of treatment clinics, federal approval for supervised consumption sites, or involving all stakeholders in developing and implementing solutions, we must remember that we are all on the same team. The goal is to save lives, not score political points.”