03/08/2013 03:46 EST | Updated 03/08/2013 03:50 EST

Alberta Budget 2013 Health Funding Is Actually Cuts In Disguise


The amount the province dishes out for health care is going up, and it plans to borrow money for health infrastructure, but doctors and nurses shouldn't expect any of that money will be going to them, said Alberta Finance Minister Doug Horner after tabling the 2013 budget.

The Alberta government delivered a budget on Thursday that promises $15 billion in funding over the next three years, with $2.1 billion of that going to hospitals, family clinics and long-term care facilities.

The money allotted to health translates to a three per cent increase, but when inflation and expected population growth are considered, the funding is actually a cut.

Those cuts are even deeper for doctors, who will see no extra cash for wage increases, said Horner.

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Top 10 Broken Promises of the 2013 Alberta Budget

"We have the highest-paid doctors in the country (and only) Saskatchewan might be a little bit higher than us on the nursing side," he said.

Alberta Medical Association president Michael Giuffre told the Edmonton Journal the government's hard line on funding will have an impact on patients, who will have to wait longer to see a doctor.

“We’re concerned about the increased number of patients coming to Alberta, and with (less than expected) funding for AHS (Alberta Health Services), there will be a download of patients from institutional care to community care. So physicians will be in quandary in how they can manage the patient care load,” said Giuffre.

"Although Alberta is near the top of all provinces in terms of health spending per person in Canada, we have not seen a commensurate impact in terms of improved patient outcomes," AHS said in response to the budget.

AHS is considering a freeze in the growth of the health care workforce, a freeze on travel for everything but the most critical circumstances, a review of senior management structure and a 10 per cent reduction in overall administration costs to combat the lacking budget.

Out of the three per cent increase ($500 million) in funding, AHS will get $10.5 billion for front-line services.

The Alberta New Democrats, who released a list of broken promises moments after the provincial budget was made public, said the budget also skipped out on the promise of the introduction of 'Fast Track' emergency rooms at a cost of $2.5 million per hospital.

They also highlighted that the three per cent increase is lower than the four-and-a-half per cent increase planned over five years.

No extra money was allotted for doctors, teachers, nurses or other government workers who are now in contract negotiations with the province.

Additional health highlights from the budget include a $262 million investment in primary care networks, family care clinics, addiction and mental health services, comprehensive drug and supplementary health benefit coverage and $358 million for the Alberta Seniors Benefit program.

With files from the Canadian Press