Mr. Fraser: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We need to have a serious conversation about getting health spending under control. One way that organizations can try to curb spending is to offer early retirement packages. This lets employees near retirement age leave with financial security and lets the company trim personnel costs. When Shaw recently opened up 16 early retirement packages, nearly 3,000 people applied, showing it can be a popular option. To the Minister of Health: would you consider offering early retirement packages to people working in our health care sector in order to help curb health care spending?
The Speaker: The hon. Minister of Education.
Mr. Eggen: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thanks very much for the question. Certainly, Health has been working very hard to get spending under control. I’m very proud to say that we’ve moved from about 6 or 7 per cent down to just over 2 per cent in terms of annual growth. So considering the population growth and so forth, I think that the ministry and AHS are doing a good job to get spending under control, of which this suggestion could be an option.
Mr. Fraser: Another way to try to contain the growth in the health spending is through managed attrition. In an organization as big as Alberta Health Services there are thousands and thousands of positions, and we need to make sure that those positions are necessary and effective. If they aren’t, then as people retire or leave those jobs, we need to consider not rehiring anyone else to fill them. This is a way that we contain costs without imposing job cuts. To the same minister: is there an attrition plan in place to help manage the growth of positions in Alberta’s health care system and reduce its costs?
The Speaker: The hon. minister.
Mr. Eggen: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thanks very much for the question. Certainly, it’s important to make sure that you are keeping a close eye on costs every step of the way. I think the minister and the ministry and Alberta Health Services have been doing a very good job. I mean, I think options are open to be creative in this regard, but one option that’s not open is to move to private health care when public health care serves the public efficiently and more equitably by far.
The Speaker: Second supplemental.
Mr. Fraser: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Minister, I’ve outlined two ways to save our health care system money without having to lay anyone off. While you like to refer to these measures as billion-dollar cuts, the fact of the matter is that without some action on health care costs, we’re actually putting the whole system at risk. Recently released performance metrics are showing that not only is the health care spending increasing, but results are getting worse. To the same minister: with increasing costs and decreasing performance, don’t you think it’s time that your government tried a new approach?
The Speaker: The hon. minister.
Mr. Eggen: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Certainly, we’re keeping a very close eye on controlling costs every step of the way. I would dispute the assertion that performance is decreasing. I think that in targeted areas we see a marked increase in delivery of health care, especially in home care, acute care. In certain key areas it’s definitely improving, and we can do that on a public health platform. The UCP is talking about privatization of health care. That’s unconscionable, it’s not a good use of money, and Albertans don’t want it.