Saturday, May 03, 2008

Why Can't the Calgary Health Authority Live Within a Budget When Edmonton's Can?

This attitude from the Calgary Health Authority drives me crazy. The presumption that Edmonton and Calgary are the same and somehow there is a health funding discrepancy between the two authorities is idiotic and pure politics. It always worked in Calgary’s favour under Klein. That erroneous and simplistic “logic” will not prevail under Minister Liepert.

The fact is Calgary serves a population that is more urban, educated, wealthier, younger, white collar, less distributed and perhaps more culturally homogenous than Edmonton. I accept that latter point may be disputable given the recent immigration wave that came to Calgary. These are indicator of better health conditions and outcomes. For sure they indicate a better and healthier population than exists in the Edmonton region.

The Capital Region Health Authority in Edmonton serves an older, poorer, less educated, more industrial blue collar and culturally diverse population. That industrial based economy is prone to accidents that tend to be more serious than white collar worker paper cuts. Edmonton has a more dispersed population too, serving the north where we find all the Alberta development and related danger form accidents and social breakdown. All this indicates Edmonton will be a more expensive and difficult health care system.

The Calgary Health Authority can’t ever seem to manage its budget. It has perpetual deficits and the Calgary solution is to automatically run to the province for more money – and Klein always obliged. I can remember one year when Calgary ran a $70m deficit and the Capital Region Health Authority ran a $17m surplus. There were no unusual Calgary specific higher health demand circumstances that year. Go figure!

Come on Calgary. This perpetual self-absorbed Toronto wanna-be attitude and the over the top hubris about being better than Edmonton is childish. Surely the talented private sector brains down there can do better. If they insist they are better than the Capital City of Bureaucrats who makes up Edmonton why can’t they simply do it?

Calgary, as we are constantly told by Calgarians and their media, is where all the management and financial talent exist in the province. Just look how “smarter” they ended up being about the impact of the royalty review…surely they weren’t bluffing about something so important to the entire province. Surely they can get that kind of talent to serve on the Calgary Health Authority. Maybe then the Calgary Health Authority can actually do a better job of providing quality health care for Calgarians and provide top value for taxpayer dollars too. Give the superior attitude that is always spouted down there, this ought to be a slam dunk – wouldn’t you think?

Minister Liepert has made it pretty clear that the governance of the health care system is on the table as part of his efforts to change "mind-sets." Looking at the mind set attitude and actions of the Calgary Health Authority I's say it is a damn good thing he is looking at some serious governance changes.