News / Edmonton

Budget 2017: Province anticipates $400 million in savings in new doctor deal

But health spending is on the uptick in Alberta.

Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman

Metro File

Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman

The province expects to save $400 million this year in healthcare costs after signing a new deal with Alberta doctors.

The details were outlined in the province’s 2017 budget tabled Thursday, as Alberta Health looks to curb healthcare spending.

The government has been bargaining with the Alberta Medical Association to create a new funding model so healthcare is more community focused.

The changes, which would result in $400 million savings this year, include altering fee-for-service models so services aren’t duplicated and enhance care co-ordination by sharing data using online tools.

But health spending is still up 3.2 per cent this year, despite the savings.

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Sandra Azocar, with Friends of Medicare, said the spending increase is in line with inflation and population growth.

"That’s important for the operational funding that’s required to continue," she said. "We’re very actually pleased that this government has decided to sustain health care in this province."

The budget is in contrast to the ministry’s plan to see spending growth decrease annually. Last year’s spending growth rate was 2.5 per cent.

However, the 3.2 per cent figure is still lower than Alberta’s historic six per cent spending growth rate.

The government is also spending $4.5 billion over four years on capital projects.

In Edmonton, investments include plans for a new hospital, projects at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, and modernizations for the Misericordia Community Hospital.

Calgary will also get $131 million to build a new continuing care facility.

Azocar said government is making positive strides in promising 2,000 long-term care beds and new mental health programs at Royal Alex, specifically those geared towards youth.

"We will continue to push this government to make sure they follow through on their prior promises."

As for the doctor deal, Azocar said the devil will be in the details.

"The government is managing to save a lot of money from the program they currently have in place but I still think we need to see exactly where that’s going to go," she said.  

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