Was it need or was it politics?

Two years ago when I began writing and lobbying of the need for renal dialysis service, there was a strategy.

I predicted to George Keay, Diana Oliver, some local politicians and members of local Diabetes Advocacy Management Group, this was a long-term project. It was generally agreed this service would be announced in the next provincial election campaign but there was a need to keep the pressure on over the next two years.

The announcement came Feb. 6 when Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman and Lesser Slave Lake MLA Danielle Larivee delivered the good news.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re all as happy as pigs in you-know-what after hearing the announcement.

But you have to wonder…

Was this news because of need, or a desperate government trying to get re-elected?

No offence intended to Larivee and Hoffman, but the need for this service was so blatantly obvious, why did it take so long? Alberta Health Services’ own numbers told the government the need here was far greater than many other places in Alberta which received services before us. It appears decisions at the government level are based on politics, not need.

How sad is that? Even a lowly reporter had no problem figuring that out!

Let me remind you of the Alberta Health Primary Care – Community Profiles report released in March 2015. High Prairie’s need was second in Alberta, Slave Lake’s 25th.

Guess who received increased service first? Slave Lake!

The diabetic rate locally was over 69 per cent above the provincial average, Slave Lake’s was 20 per cent.

Guess who received increased service? Slave Lake!

Meanwhile, our useless Lesser Slave Lake Health Advisory Council was ignoring the need by not even mentioning dialysis for High Prairie in its 2015-16 annual report.

But it did mention Wabasca, another community with lesser need than High Prairie. Local rep and chair Ken Matthews signed the report.

At least after pointing this out in the press, the following year’s report did make considerable mention of the need for dialysis in High Prairie.

In the two years I watched this process evolve, there was no huge outcry from local politicians. There were no bold statements of criticism. Too many were too worried about angering Larivee or a government they wanted to play nice with, and appease her in taking part in photo ops. It was a sellout to the people who needed this service.

Thankfully, some of us don’t have to play that sordid game. Sometimes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Today, we are in the first stages of an obvious election campaign. As the governing parties usually do, they hand out the goodies. The PCs, before the NDP, were no different. What better way to sway a few votes than spending government dollars on election goodies?

Which brings us back to the question: was this announcement made because of need, or because a government is trying to get re-elected? Probably a bit of both. You decide.

What cannot be disputed is in this case, the High Prairie region got a piece of that election goodie pie. We can taste its fruits and enjoy it, no matter how late it is in coming.

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