It's Time To End State Funded Religious
Covenant Health, Alberta’s parallel Catholic health system, is the legacy of the Grey Nuns, the Catholic nursing sisters who founded the province’s first hospitals more than 100 years ago. But has the time for a Catholic-run health-care system come to an end?
The politically powerful Covenant board is chaired by former premier Ed Stelmach, and Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith serves on the board himself. Covenant Health, and its sister agency, Covenant Care, run 23 hospitals and nursing homes across the province. That includes two of Edmonton’s active-treatment hospitals, the Grey Nuns and the Misericordia, which it operates under contract to Alberta Health Services. In Edmonton, Covenant also operates 71 palliative and hospice care beds — 90 per cent of the total palliative care beds in this region.
Covenant Health has the largest budget and covers the largest geographic area of any public Catholic health agency in Canada. Where the trend in other provinces has been to gradually absorb such agencies into the secular system, Covenant has lately been growing. Should Covenant Health continue to be protected and allowed to grow in Alberta, or is the role of the Catholic Church in administering public healthcare an anachronistic legacy that must be changed?
For decades, religious conservatives have sought to impose their beliefs on health care laws, targeting women’s health care in particular and more recently assisted dying. While court precedents have limited the effect that these extremist groups can have on federal law, these organizations nonetheless have been able to push through religious exemptions and privileges affecting health care across the province.
Negative laws affecting health care generally relate to issues of paramount concern to religious conservatives: abortion, contraception, sterilization, end-of-life care, and faith healing. In addition to compromising the separation of religion and government, these intrusive laws and policies can also have a drastically negative impact on people by limiting access to essential health care, especially for groups that already face discrimination or are otherwise vulnerable.
From the right of women and trans men to access abortion and contraception to the right of the terminally ill to die with dignity, there are few issues in medical ethics that are not influenced by the voices of faith groups. But to what extent should "religious freedom" be accommodated in healthcare? And how can we ensure that patient care is always prioritised over religious concerns?
We will campaign for an inclusive and secular healthcare system for all of Alberta. Our secular approach to healthcare would see the separate Catholic Healthcare System know as "Covenant Health," phased out and merged with AHS.
The generally secular nature of our health services is what allows them to serve people of all faiths and none equally, and to welcome people of all faiths and none into the noble endeavour of healthcare. No patient should be turned away or redirected due to the phisicians personal religious beliefs. Hospitals are not parishes.
Secularism should be a professional ethical standard, so that patient care not religious concerns always comes first.
We will campaign to protect patients from the harm caused by the imposition on them of other people's religious values. We advocate for a secular approach to current major health issues. We are opposed to religious influences in medicine where these adversely affect the manner in which medical practice is performed. We support patient autonomy and challenge pro-religious discrimination particularly in those areas of medicine where reasonable personal choice is threatened.
Below is a list of the issues we will be campaigning for in our pursuit for a Alberta Secular Healthcare.