Tuesday night Lethbridge East UCP provincial candidate Nathan Neudorf and NDP candidate Rob Miyashiro took part in the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce all-candidate forum, fielding questions from both the public and media. A substantial number of questions were asked in both instances related to the opioid and healthcare crisis being faced in the city.
When it came to the opioid crisis in Lethbridge, the majority of questions were aimed toward Miyashiro, with specifics being asked about the city’s request for more sheriffs to help deal with the crisis, the role jobs play, and the homelessness problems downtown. The NDP candidate explained in numerous answers, dealing with the opioid problem and addictions there is no one cure fixes all but rather there needs to be a multipronged approach to deal with these issues.
“You need to look at the way we deal with addictions itself, not just one thing, but we still need funding for harm reduction, we need funding for recovery, we need funding for detox, we need funding for treatment,” Mayashiro said.
Neudorf rebutted this opponent’s answer, saying looking at the plans the United Conservative Government has put in place, they are putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to addressing the issues at hand.
“By depending on not just one leg of the school, but creating other legs and actually funding those wrap-around services,” Neudorf says.
In his rebuttal, Neudorf mentioned the investments the UCP has made in recovery efforts, but he also expanded on other efforts the government has made including bringing drug courts to the city, hiring more officers through ASIRT and providing affordable housing.
“We are also proposing adding a community security element, where those who are caught in addiction, if they become violent offenders and are a danger to either themselves or the public, we are going to support our police services by allowing them through the court system with a judges order to direct those individuals to a mandatory treatment.”
When asked about how the party would go about dealing with forcing those who show violent behaviour into treatment, when professionals say someone needs to want help for treatment to work; Neudorf answered to date the UCP has ensured those who are wanting services have access to them and have made steps in early childhood prevention for those ages six to 12.
The first question regarding the healthcare crisis was directed in Neudorf’s direction, specifically regarding comments he had made at a previous forum, regarding the use of emergency rooms for non-emergent medical tests or issues, and what steps can be taken so residents can get these tests elsewhere and don’t need to go to the ER, outside of “recruiting and retaining doctors.”
“We are one of the only communities without an urgent care centre, but this is why as a representative of Lethbridge I have sought to expand the conversation beyond platforms of any party and say ‘let’s look at Lethbridge as a unique and distinct area,” Neudorf said. “Which is why I have talked about the Chinook regional hospital being a Tear Three hospital, and the need for it to become a Tear two hospital. When you have those expanded services, rather than just trying to bolt on parts and spend money on certain projects you are taking a systematic look at our healthcare and saying ‘What do we need to do to increase the level of service not only for our residents of Lethbridge but all of those in southern Alberta.”
Miyashiro rebutted the incumbent’s answer saying it is up to the person to decide if they are having an emergency.
“Just today a group of emergency room doctors sent out a news release, and they talked about the increased use of the emergency room in Lethbridge,” Miyashiro said. “They didn’t talk that there were people coming there for trivial matters, they didn’t talk about people maybe having to pay in order to have a lower use of emergency.”
“They said and I quote ‘We recognize that with the current shortage of physicians and lack of other urgent care options, many of you come to see us because you have no other option. We understand and will continue to do our best to provide care where other branches of the healthcare system are deficient and we ask for your patience and understanding as we try to do this in an environment with increased demand and decreased resources.”
Other topics brought up throughout the evening included the business sector, post-secondary education and how each party will incentivize students to either stay not only in Alberta but in Lethbridge.
Election day is May 29th.