Health Services woes

By Natalie Sit

University of Calgary Health Services has found a potential health care provider, however a Health Services doctor believes the imminent changes are not in the best interests of quality health care at the university.

Currently, the U of C and a health provider are negotiating towards a contract. As well, the company is meeting with staff and discussing issues with AUPE, which represents non-physician staff.

During the information disclosure phase, the identity of the company must remain anon- ymous because it is publicly traded.

However, these changes worry psychiatrist Dr. Stephanie Mason, who has been with Health Services for eight years. She believes the clinic could change irrevocably.

"The emphasis [President] Harvey Weingarten Harvey Weingarten is putting on the university is focusing on Health and Wellness," said Mason. "Health Services is a state of the art facility and should be a model for what he’s striving for. It’s eroded to a point where administration has shifted the locus of control."

According to Associate Vice-President Student Affairs Peggy Patterson, the university started looking for a community health partner because students did not want tuition money funding health care.

"Any time you remove the financial imperative, you provide the best level of service," said Allan Pedden, an advisor to Dr. Patterson. "But at what cost do students get a top quality service? A student who doesn’t use Health Services doesn’t get quality service."

Mason believes any budget concerns should have been discussed with staff. She points to advertising which used "tacky humour" or a refrigerator and dishwasher staff does not use.

"They didn’t give us any control," said Mason. "I would have taken a hit [on my salary] for the team. They are a good team. A $5 surcharge would have saved us."

Pedden said they looked at many models of operation but the university wanted a revenue-generating model that would not need money from students. Money will come from leases, renting equipment, doctors’ billing Alberta Health Care and direct users charges.

In the meantime, the doctors are talking with the health care company and all doctors have extended their contract until the end of September.

[ed: Dr. Mason tells us that staff was consulted at length about budget concerns, but felt at times that the views of staff were not heard by university administration.]

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