Government cannot balance the books on the backs of frontline workers

CALGARY, AB (February 27, 2015): Dr. David Swann is calling on the premier to stop his continued public attacks on frontline workers in Alberta.

“This premier is going on a corporate lecture tour telling Albertans our frontline workers should be expected to sacrifice more and more to make up for the PC budget crisis,” says Swann. “In reality, it is the government who is to blame because of their decades of fiscal irresponsibility.”

Swann’s comments come one day after Premier Prentice told Calgary’s Canadian Club that frontline workers need to ‘share the burden’ of Alberta’s revenue imbalance.

“These workers already carry the burden of keeping Albertans safe, healthy, educated, and supported at vulnerable times. They do so everyday under incredibly difficult circumstances, made more difficult by constant government underfunding and mismanagement.”

I support frontline workers and will oppose any effort to cover the government budget crisis at their expense.

Statement from David Swann: Premier’s Office Cuts

CALGARY, AB (February 25, 2015): Dr. David Swann has released the following statement in response to the 5% cut to the Premier’s office budget:

“Today’s announcement of a 5% cut to Premier’s Office staff pay is a symbolic gesture that will now be used as political cover to justify the Premier’s pending attack on hardworking frontline workers in this province.

“Make no mistake, no reduction to the salaries of highly paid senior political staff will justify asking our teachers, nurses, or paramedics to pay the price for years of government fiscal mismanagement.

“We have seen this cynical and sorry tactic from premiers in the past as they have repeatedly slashed the budgets of front line services to respond to recurring and predictable drops in the price of oil.

“The solution to our revenue imbalance is not to make symbolic gestures for political purposes or pointed comments directed at our public service. The solution is to make better financial decisions than those made during decades of irresponsible government.”

Statement from David Swann: Pink Shirt Day

CALGARY, AB (February 25, 2015): Dr. David Swann has released the following statement to mark Pink Shirt Day:

“Pink Shirt Day was organized by high school students in Nova Scotia who wanted to make their world and their community a kinder and more accepting place.

“Today, many Albertans are also proudly wearing pink to send a message of respect and tolerance and to stand up against bullying.

“We as a society have come to realize the old adage that says, ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’, is simply not true. Words do hurt. And bullying can leave long-lasting emotional and physical scars.

“People across Alberta have also expressed their overwhelming support for efforts to make their schools more inclusive and welcoming environments.

“We have championed this initiative last year through the introduction of Motion 503 and Bill 202, the Safe & Inclusive Schools Statutes Amendment Act, which sought to ensure students’ rights to form a Gay-Straight Alliance club in their schools, as these clubs have been shown to reduce bullying for all students, not just those who associate themselves with the LGBTQ community.

“Similarly, by participating in Pink Shirt Day, we are telling the world we want more inclusion and acceptance and less hatred and bigotry.

“Regardless of what colour of shirt we have on today, we can all take a moment to stand up against bullying and show our support for this important campaign.

“Happy Pink Shirt Day!”   

Recommendations for Alberta’s International Offices a positive step toward eliminating wasteful patronage positions

EDMONTON, AB (February 18, 2015): Dr. David Swann says the decision to reorganize Alberta’s International Offices is a positive step toward eliminating wasteful patronage positions.

“This is a good first step,” says Swann. “I have always seriously questioned the efficiency and effectiveness of these trade offices, so we are very pleased the government is accepting all 23 of Mr. Hoffmann’s recommendations, which will save millions of dollars of public money.”

I have raised concerns in the past that appointments to international offices were being used as patronage positions for friends of the government insiders. The recent review found that there was indeed waste, but fell short of recommending the offices be closed completely. However, Alberta export numbers to destination countries provided in the review show that changes in trade volumes are largely due to global market fundamentals. This makes it difficult to pin point how effective Alberta’s International Offices actually are in promoting trade and maintaining trade.

“To fully assess the value of these offices, we need to know how Alberta export numbers compare with countries that don’t have them,” says Swann. “Are export trends in those countries similar to the countries that have an Alberta Office? If so, we would have to question why we need them at all.”

I have called for trade representatives to be hired through a competitive process and for all Alberta trade offices to be co-located in Canadian embassies or consulate-general offices.

Statement from David Swann: Happy Lunar New Year

CALGARY, AB (February 18, 2015): Dr. David Swann released the following statement to mark the Lunar New Year celebration and welcome in the Year of the Goat:

“ I would like to wish our Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean communities a very happy Lunar New Year celebration and best wishes for a prosperous Year of the Goat.

“This Spring Festival is one of the most important events of the year for many Albertans. It is a time to take part in a variety of festivities, including parades, fireworks, giving red envelopes, sharing of food, and enjoying the company of close friends and family The new moon marks the start of a new calendar year, and, as such, it is seen an opportunity for renewal. The Goat stands for gentleness, peace, and love.   

“May all of this be yours as you have a safe and joyful celebration.

“Kung Hei Fat Choy! Sheen Nien Kweye le!”

Government must end repeated ‘Red Alerts’ in Alberta’s emergency medical services

CALGARY, AB (February 13, 2015): Dr. David Swann is calling on the government to take immediate action to end repeated ‘Red Alerts’ in Alberta’s emergency medical system.

Swann’s call comes after several of Alberta’s paramedics have taken to social media to share their stories of ‘Red Alerts’, which is the term for a period of time when no ambulances are available to respond to emergency medical service calls.

“The situation is so critical that EMS staff are risking their jobs by going public to raise awareness about the dire problems in the system,” says Swann. “The government needs to focus on addressing their concerns, not silencing or disciplining these brave whistleblowers.

“We need to learn from the mistakes of the past, not repeat them,” says Swann. “If we continue to ignore these warnings, it will be disastrous for our front line workers, our health system as a whole, and ultimately all Albertans who rely on them during emergencies.”

The lack of access to emergency and ward beds is resulting in a backlog of ambulances queueing outside of hospitals to transfer patients. Once inside, emergency medical system staff are unable to leave until the patient is admitted. As a result, highly trained paramedics are waiting hours in emergency departments just to transfer their patients. This ties up both staff and vehicles for extended periods of time, making them unable to respond to further service calls.

“Albertans expect ambulances to be available when they need urgent medical help,” says Swann. “Emergency workers are trained to respond with lifesaving speed and skill, but they are impeded from doing so because they simply cannot get back out on the road after the previous call.”

Dr. Swann is calling on the government to move quickly to transfer alternative level of care patients out of hospitals and into the community with increased support in order to alleviate the congestion in the acute care system and allow for better emergency response times.

“The governments’ inadequate support for EMS and disastrous health care privatization policies for seniors’ care are to blame for this mess, and they need to be changed in order to clean it up,” says Swann. “The alarm bells won’t stop ringing until immediate action is taken to ensure better access to emergency medical services.”

New study highlights government inaction on the acute care access crisis

EDMONTON, AB (February 10, 2015): Dr. David Swann says a new study on the availability of acute care beds is another sober reminder of the continual health care access crisis.

“If it wasn’t abundantly clear already, this study sends another strong signal about the access to care crisis in Alberta,” says Swann. “The government is not ensuring the sufficient number of beds are available to meet our provinces’ needs.”

The study’s author Dr. Donna Wilson, a professor of Nursing at the University of Alberta, compared Alberta’s number of citizens per acute care bed with other provinces and countries. The findings show Alberta has a significant issue with capacity.

“The government often uses Alberta’s population growth rate as an excuse for being unable to meet their performance targets, but the problem runs deeper,” says Swann. “Hospitals are overcrowded largely due to the government’s continual failure to keep up with infrastructure demands or improve access to primary, emergency, home and long-term care.”

“It is simply not enough for the PCs to announce more beds in the future without addressing the underlying causes of overcrowding,” says Swann. “At the current rate, any new spaces will be forced to deal with the same challenges others are facing now.”

Swann is calling on the government to improve the capacity of current acute care beds by drastically reducing the amount of time individuals requiring alternative level of care spend in hospitals, improving access to primary care for all Albertans, making investment in community-based home care and long-term care a priority, and catching up on the billion dollar health care infrastructure deficit to ensure capacity is not further diminished as a result of deferred maintenance.

“The reality is the government is not doing enough to address this looming crisis,” says Swann.  “One bad flu season or similar epidemic could easily overwhelm our hospitals and put the health and safety of Albertans at risk.

“We need to take some real, pragmatic steps today if we hope to avert potential future disaster.”

Claims of former Chief Medical Examiner are part of a disturbing pattern of Government interference

CALGARY, AB (February 5, 2015): Dr. David Swann says the claims of the former Chief Medical Examiner are part of a disturbing pattern of political interference in the public service by the government.

A statement of claim filed by Alberta’s former Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Anny Sauvageau alleges that senior officials attempted to interfere with the normal processes of her office, and that when she spoke out about this interference, she was removed from her position.

“This fits an all too common pattern of political interference and intimidation of the public service” says Swann. “Bullying dissent into silence continues despite all the management changes.”

Swann first raised this issue of Sauvageau’s allegations in Question Period during last fall’s legislature session. Justice Minister Jonathan Denis said there was no need for an investigation into the claims made by the former senior department official.

“The allegations were serious, but the minister’s response was laughable,” says Swann. “Now, they have a lawsuit on their hands.”

“The credibility of a member of cabinet is in question,” says Swann. “It is a story we’ve heard before, and it doesn’t end well for anyone.”

World Cancer Day shadowed by government delaying cancer centre

CALGARY, AB (February 4, 2015): Dr. David Swann issued the following statement to acknowledge World Cancer Day:
“As we observe World Cancer Day this year, we have reason to be grateful and hopeful. There have been major medical advances in the detection and treatment of cancer in recent years, with available data showing screening and prevention which have contributed to a decrease in cancer rates across the province.

“However, we must continue to invest in research and care to patients if we are going to win this war against cancer.

“The fight is not over, yet the government has again delayed the much needed new cancer centre in Calgary, dealing patient care and research a huge set back. This centre was promised to Albertans in 2006 but now the centre will be on hold again with the recent drop in oil prices.

“This is a clear example of Albertans suffering because of the poor management by the government. Albertan’s priorities are being ignored while they focus on their own misguided political priorities.

“A government that has invested millions into the redevelopment of a golf course in Kananaskis should not have to delay a cancer centre which will help treat patients and save lives. Albertans deserve a government which invests in their care.

“The government missed their opportunity when oil prices were high. They should have built the cancer centre and they didn’t. There is no excuse, they should have put people first. Instead this government has saved nothing of our non-renewable resource wealth for the past 30 years and Albertans are being left behind.”