Lethbridge-East candidates address concerns over healthcare, SCS during library forum

·4 min read

Healthcare continues to be a major point of concern for the citizens of Lethbridge as they directly question the Lethbridge-East candidates.

The Lethbridge Public Library hosted an open forum yesterday, with both Rob Miyashiro of the NDP and Nathan Neudorf of the UCP in attendance.

The candidates took questions from both a panel of local media representatives and those sitting in the audience.

The candidates were asked if they would bring back another permanent supervised consumption site to the city.

Neudorf says he does not support a return to the site, saying the UCP sought to immediately remove the site when his party took office in 2019.

“One of the first things our government did when we took power was to remove that because we saw so much social disorder, petty crime, vandalism, littering downtown, it created a lot of problems for our small businesses,” said Neudorf.

The incumbent MLA says there is still a need to provide support for those facing addictions, but other methods are required.

“Our focus has always been about treatment and recovery so [drug users] get off that hamster wheel of addiction. Most of the people that need that service, need it for long term care,” said Neudorf.

Furthermore, he says the new treatment centre located outside the city will provide superior care and support over a longer period.

“We’re talking one year, 18 months, up to two years to help them recover,” said Neudorf.

However, Miyashiro says the UCP plan is not working, with more fatalities seen in recent years than ever before.

“The past few years have been the deadliest on record. Far too many Albertans are dying from preventable drug poisoning deaths,” said Miyashiro.

The former city councillor says action must be taken beyond a drug treatment centre if the government is going to stop the drug problem.

“We can, and we have to, take better steps to prevent further deaths and we need to build a safe and healthy community for everyone while we’re doing it,” said Miyashiro.

Although, he admits there is no easy solution when dealing with addiction.

“This is a really complex issue, there’s no simple solution to that. The Alberta NDP is taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to this issue,” said Miyashiro.

He says there needs to be a full system in place to support those facing addiction, adding that mental health is the key to winning this battle.

“We need a whole system to support people … We need to have the healthcare system involved, we need housing, we need to have treatment,” said Miyashiro.

Both candidates expressed their concerns with the drug problem facing the city, saying their party will fight for Albertans and bring forward a solution to this crisis.

Another question focused on the attraction and retention of doctors to the city.

Miyashiro says, under an NDP government, a million more Albertans will have access to a family physician if his party is elected.

“One of the ways we’re going to do this is develop family health clinics centred around family health teams,” said Miyashiro.

He says this will alleviate the demand for physicians by enabling other experts to deal directly with patients.

“Obviously we’re going to have to train more people,” said Miyashiro.

He says the party will work more closely with post-secondary institutions to enable the additional training.

Neudorf says the UCP will bring a similar approach to tackle this issue, also saying the family health team concept is nothing new.

However, he says the current program needs to change before it can become effective on a larger scale because it has failed to offer direct billing to the government.

“We need to negotiate a new contract so that we can continue to find new ways for them to bill the government,” said Neudorf.

Furthermore, he says the UCP will look for bigger solutions to bring forward an appropriate plan in Lethbridge.

Neudorf says the Chinook Regional Hospital needs to be taken from a Tier 3 service to a Tier 2 service.

This would allow for a greater cardiac and neurological services, among other things.

“Until we have that service, we will continue to have to take patients to Calgary or other centres,” said Neudorf.

Other questions from the media panel focused on different areas in the healthcare system, affordability for small businesses, housing programs and rent prices.

Justin Sibbet, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald