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Albertans arrive by bus from across province to support public health care

Albertans arrive by bus from across province to support public health care
WATCH: About 30 Albertans on board what they've dubbed “The People's Bus” travelled across the province in support of public health care. As Jill Croteau reports, they hope their message compels others to get engaged on the issues impacting health services.

Close to 30 Albertans trying to bring attention to proposed health care cuts arrived at the constituency office of Health Minister Tyler Shandro on Wednesday.

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Members of the group, from all over the province, travelled in a bus they dubbed “the people’s bus.”

Friends of Medicare and Public Interest Alberta organized the event.

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Group walks to Health Minister\’s office with signs.
Group walks to Health Minister\’s office with signs. Jill Croteau/Global News

Sandra Azocar with Friends of Medicare said people want to know they have a voice.

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“We have retired nurses, we have community members, all people concerned about direction this government is taking,” Azocar said. “Albertans elected this government but they didn’t give them a blank cheque to erode our public system.”

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Those who took part in the rally headed right to the door of Minister Shandro’s office. He wasn’t there and an office staff member said she would relay their concerns to him. Security eventually asked them to leave the property.

UCP’s plan to save nearly $2B in health services
UCP’s plan to save nearly $2B in health services

Alberta is spending $20.6 billion on health this year, equivalent to more than 40 per cent of the operating budget – higher per capita than almost all other provinces – but with outcomes that put the province in the middle of the pack.

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The health minister hired Ernst & Young to review Alberta Health Services and make recommendations to find savings and improve performance.

The 220-page report “provides clear evidence for overdue reforms and opportunities where our system can do better in terms of patient services, in terms of outcome, in terms of value of money,” Shandro said Feb. 3.

The report made 57 recommendations, including changes to work rules and pay for doctors and nurses, expanded use of private clinics, and further outsourcing of support services such as laundry, linen, food service and housekeeping.

Albertans outside Minister Shandro\’s office.
Albertans outside Minister Shandro\’s office. Jill Croteau/Global News

Joel French with Public Interest Alberta said it wasn’t their intent to be confrontational but rather to initiate a conversation about health care changes.

“I think the average Albertan, if they weren’t paying attention before, they are starting to wake up now and they see these significant changes happening,” French said. “Changes like cutting 46,000 people off the seniors drug plan that’s affecting so many families across the province.”

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READ MORE: Alberta Health Services review aimed at finding savings, improving performance

“Also laying off 5,000 front-line health care staff. That has huge impacts across the province.”

The group moved to the nearby neighborhood to canvass the area in an effort to motivate others to take their concerns directly to the health minister.

Growing backlash over upcoming changes to seniors’ drug program in Alberta
Growing backlash over upcoming changes to seniors’ drug program in Alberta

— With files from Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press