How the Deals Are Made

In the lead up to Budget 2020, on February 3 the Kenney government released a "performance review summary report" of Alberta Health Service (AHS), conducted by the accounting firm Ernst & Young (E&Y). The report contained 57 recommendations and what the government called "72 savings opportunities to improve the quality and long-term sustainability of health services." In releasing the report, the government stated it had accepted the report, with two important exceptions: there would be no rural hospital closures or urban trauma centre consolidations.

Ernst & Young (E&Y) is one of the foremost masters of sucking dry companies -- and their active and retired workers -- that go into bankruptcy protection in the U.S. and around the world and then whitewashing the scene of any evidence of crime. It is notorious for its self-serving reports and recommendations which always declare a benefit to be gained from privatization and handing over all control of public services to private interests. Firms like E&Y who are in the business of developing public-private partnerships and other forms of privatization never mention that the benefits accrue to a tiny minority of ultra-rich parasites at the expense of the workers who produce added value and the people who need and have a right to the public services.

The process of using neo-liberal accounting cartels and "panels" chosen to produce pre-determined results is part of the restructuring of the state. Rich private interests are paid to extol the virtues of pay-the-rich schemes from which they as well as their clients benefit. The Alberta government has concentrated administration of health care in a single health authority, Alberta Health Services (AHS), but it is clear that the AHS is not directing this current restructuring, but has been reduced to implementing the decisions made by the global oligarchs and delivered through mechanisms like the E&Y report.

Consultants like E&Y are not hired by governments to find efficiencies so as to improve the delivery of health care. Their role is to provide a pretext for restructuring of the state and handing over public services to private interests. Their "reports" are completely predictable -- contract out services, attack workers' working and living conditions, reduce services, and impose additional user fees on the people. Workers are declared to be a "cost" which is to be cut to the bone in order to pay the rich, both by diverting funding from health care and by increasing the amount of the remaining funding paid to the parasites through lucrative contracts. The details of these contracts are never published, as the government says they are private business information.

Health care funding comes from the portion of the added-value created by workers claimed by governments. Privatization and cuts to health care funding are an attack not only on the health care workers but also on the living standards of the working people as a whole. To call this "savings" is nonsensical. To speak of the human factor, the workers who provide health and services as a "cost" is completely irrational when there would be no health care system without them. But this is how the rich see things -- anything that does not go directly into their pockets is a "cost."

The pandemic has provided yet more proof of the terrible consequences of private control over seniors' care residences, where the majority of deaths from COVID-19 have occurred. Study after study has shown the increases in infectious disease when housekeeping in hospitals has been privatized. Communities across Alberta have fought to get the food monopolies out of long-term care so their loved ones could have nourishing and culturally appropriate food. The conclusion that there should not be a penny of private profit in health care and seniors' care is clear. But governments accept no responsibility for the tragedies that occur as a result of their anti-social offensive, or the hardships the working people face. Jason Kenney declares that bringing COVID-19 under control is a matter of personal responsibility, although apparently not his own.

A health care "insider" told Workers' Forum, "E&Y doesn't know anything about health care; they don't know anything about Alberta. Other than that, it was a good report." Never mind patient suffering and staff burn-out, we just provide the numbers and are well paid for it is their refrain. But it is no joke. The pandemic has shown who can be trusted with decision-making and who cannot. It has shown that the Kenney government cannot be trusted. It has shown that private operators motivated by maximum profit cannot be trusted. And it has shown that it is the health care workers who can be trusted, who know what is needed, who are fighting for the conditions needed to bring the pandemic under control, and who put themselves on the line every day to care for the people. Who decides is the crucial question.

This article was published in

Number 70 - October 15, 2020

Article Link:
How the Deals are Made - Peggy Morton


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