There is no question that Canmore residents support and value their local hospital – over the years the community has stepped up in various ways to elevate the services offered at the hospital.
The community has supported the efforts of organizations like the hospital foundation to the tune of millions of dollars over the years to provide the very best in equipment, programs and care.
The hospital, however, is a public institution that should be funded by public tax dollars, not private donations.
By supporting a single-payer healthcare system it ensures that all people, regardless of their socioeconomic background, race or gender, have access to the same standard of care as everyone else.
So when the residents of Canmore are asked to support the hospital foundation to the tune of $4.8 million to upgrade and modernize the emergency room, it should raise serious concerns about whether or not it is appropriate to fund such an essential service in this way.
While efforts by foundations to support hospitals here and across the province have helped provide funding for capital upgrades to facilities, the nature of these projects in the past have been to augment service delivery.
The problem is that by launching a fundraising drive to renovate the ER we are sending a signal to the province that private donors will fund what should be a fundamental health care service paid for by the province.
How we provide health care in our community and in this country matters. It matters because the universal health care is under threat. One need only look toward the upcoming provincial election and the position of our local UCP candidate who has publicly stated she supports a two-tiered health care system to understand this is a debate that will land on our doorstep soon.
The rationale is an easy one to understand – if you have the money, why should you not be able to use it to gain access to health care you require?
Instead of applying that argument to an individual, let’s apply it to the community of Canmore, which is home to many with deep pockets. With billionaires and millionaires calling Canmore home, why wouldn’t those with a desire to provide the highest level of health care and improve the functionality of the ER tap into that resource?
Albertans pay more per capita than any other province for health care and yet valley residents are being asked to pay even more for the delivery of emergency services. In 2018, the province was forecast to spend $7,552 on health care per person according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. The average for the country, however, is $6,839.
If this project is essential for the future functioning of the ER, why isn’t AHS paying for it?
Perhaps it is easier and faster to raise $4.8 million through the donations of private citizens. Certainly given the way bureaucracy works, we don’t doubt that a project of this scale would have to go through lengthy approval process and compete with other priorities in the province.
At the end of the day, however, most Canmore residents aren’t bringing in a six-figure income; they are busy struggling to live in the most expensive community in the entire province. To ask them to pay even more for a modernized emergency room, seems a bridge too far to cross.
While the community supports and values its hospital, and the valuable work of the foundation, this project takes it a step too far and even if in a subtle way, undermines the tenants that underpin universal health care for all Canadians.