UCP Leader Jason Kenney announced his party’s plan to address some of the shortcomings of the NDP government’s health care policies that he says have made wait times ‘skyrocket’ and have contributed to the opioid crisis.

Kenney told the media on Thursday that Rachel Notley and the NDP failed Albertans with their health care plan because they only added to our debt while reducing services.

“Under the NDP, patients face longer emergency room waits, worse emergency room outcomes, declining outcomes for youth with mental health challenges, longer wait times for hospital beds, longer continuing care wait times and more people are waiting for a continuing care policy. This is what we got for an NDP government that has added $3B to the health budget.”

In order to combat excessive wait times, Kenney said if he is elected, he would guarantee Albertans receive the surgery they need within four months or less.

Working from a plan Saskatchewan instituted in 2010, Kenney said his government would invite third-party clinics to bid on the publicly insured system, a strategy he says would reduce both costs and wait times.

“They said they wanted to get to a maximum wait time in almost all surgical cases of three months and they got to it with a 76 percent reduction in wait times,” he says. “They did it at 26 percent less than the comparable surgical costs in the government hospitals. So we will seek to replicate the phenomenal success of the Saskatchewan Surgical Initiative to meet our goal of a four month maximum wait time for surgery.”

Kenney says the strategy will also help address the province’s opioid crisis because part of that has to do with how long patients are left on a list, waiting for surgery.

“So many people waiting for surgery end up being prescribed powerful painkillers which turn into a debilitating addiction in too many cases. It is estimated that two people per day are dying as a result of the opioid crisis.”

He adds his government will also work with health officials to determine what else can be done to reduce the prescription of addictive drugs.

“So many doctors are still over prescribing powerful opioids that lead to addiction.”

He says his government will also focus on mental health, drug treatment and recovery, supporting mental health initiatives with a $100M contribution over the next four years.

The NDP says Kenney’s proposal is a stark contrast to Notley’s plan that directs $90M per year towards reducing surgical wait times and improving emergency care for Albertans.

Rachel Notley says the idea will privatize our health care system and that’s something she doesn’t want to happen.

She also panned his plan to adopt the Saskatchewan strategy, considering that statistics show Alberta is outperforming that province on a number of key benchmarks.

Friends of Medicare, a health advocacy group, says the UCP’s health care plan doesn’t include details about how much it would take to invest in contracting out and privatizing the public surgeries.

“He also failed to mention that from 2009 to 2014, the Saskatchewan government spent $176M to created its private surgical facilities and another $60.5M on operating costs in 2015,” the group wrote in a release.

The group says while there was an initial decrease in wait times, they have been steadily increasing ever since government funding has slowed down significantly.

Kenney adds his government will also undertake an administrative review of Alberta Health Services to find areas of waste with a goal of shaving $200M off of that organization’s budget.