Critics cry foul as Tories delay report card on health

Liberals say government is 'hiding abysmal record' until after election

CALGARY — A regular Alberta Health Services three-month report card on wait times and medical data across the province will be delayed several weeks — potentially until after the spring election — as it undergoes government review.

Opposition critics contended the Tory government is holding on to the health superboard's third quarter report on surgery, emergency department and cancer therapy wait times until after the vote to ward off unwanted attention on the heated health care file.

But Health Minister Fred Horne said the government is "absolutely not" stalling on the report — rather is looking at how specific resources in the new provincial budget might improve performance in some problematic health care areas.

"We want to be able to talk about specific things we're trying to do to improve performance in specific areas," Horne said in an interview.

"Taking into account resources we might be able to apply in the budget after it's passed is part of that."

An AHS spokeswoman said the performance report — providing data from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2011 — will likely be on the board's public agenda in May or June.

The reports are generally released roughly every three months. The last quarterly report on performance measures was made public following a Dec. 8 AHS board meeting.

The newest figures on performance measures, however, were "delayed" and weren't ready for approval when the AHS board met in Canmore last week, said AHS communications vice-president Colleen Turner.

The next board meeting isn't until May 3.

With the passing of the provincial budget yesterday. the PC government is expected to drop the election writ by next week and send voters to the polls in late April.

Before the board can approve it, the AHS report card must first be forwarded to the Alberta Health and Wellness (AHW) Department for "review, recommendations, and the joint development of action plans and timelines tied to improving the results," Turner said in an email.

"We want to work with AHW on a closer link between the results and the budget being developed now."

The medical data will be sent the government by the end of the month, she added.

The previous performance report showed the medical system is making improvement in some key areas, but still falling below its own targets in many areas.

Liberal Leader Dr. Raj Sherman accused the Tory government of trying to keep the information from Alberta voters.

"The PCs are desperate. They're hiding an abysmal record on health care from voters," Sherman said.

He said the delayed report is a sign of the "blurred" boundaries between the Health Department and AHS, which provides medical care to Albertans.

Wildrose health critic Heather Forsyth said the government should allow the report to be seen on schedule.

"This government is notorious for hiding things they don't want Albertans to see," she said.

"If they had something to brag about, you can be guaranteed that report would have been released."

Calgary Herald, Mar 21 2012
Byline: Jamie Komarnicki

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