UCP leadership candidate Travis Toews says fixing Alberta Health Services (AHS), including EMS, will be his number one priority should he go on to win the leadership race and become premier.

"We've got an emergency crisis and we need to take action right now," Toews told a packed house at the Rocky View Crewing Company on Sept. 8 to thunderous applause.

He believes the decision-making structure must be decentralized to empower and engage front-line health care professionals, whom he believes have become frustrated and disengaged.

"I can't say what it's like in Cochrane, but I know in the northwest, when I meet with surgeons, physicians, and nurses, they will tell me the culture is toxic That's the way they explain it, I'm just repeating what I'm hearing."

He has faced frustration in the past when sitting on an AHS committee.

"After three years, we did not make one meaningful change because all of the decisions were top-down. They used us as their mouthpiece to advocate for their positions."

His platform on healthcare capacity calls for improving credentialing for foreign healthcare professionals.

"There are thousands of foreign health care professionals, and Alberta can be the toughest province for credentialing. We're not just throwing the door right open, we've got safety, we've got criteria, but we have to find a way to get them into the system so they can deliver health care to Albertans, right now."

He's also calling for an expansion of educational opportunities, facilitating out-of-province procedures until capacity is adequate, and not excluding private delivery of services as an option.

Toews wants to see pragmatic changes in policies and protocols of EMS that he believes are reducing its efficiency and doesn't rule out the idea of decentralization.

"Paramedics need to be given full scope of practice, that's number one, and the hand-off procedures at hospitals need to be optimized so that we're not managing that process with such risk aversion that we can't get an ambulance out to pick up somebody with a heart attack."

If elected, other immediate priorities include addressing inflation and affordability, uniting the UCP caucus, and preparing for the next election.

Toews provided lengthy details on his campaign and insight into his role as finance minister before bowing out to run for the party leadership. He spent almost an equal amount of time answering questions and listening to the concerns and ideas of individuals.

He was introduced by Banff-Kananaskis MLA Miranda Rosin, who is one of the 27 UCP MLAs supporting his bid.

Local MLA Peter Guthrie, who's in Danielle Smith's camp, wasn't in attendance but Banff-Airdrie MP Blake Richards was.

Toews had multiple stops yesterday, ending the day at a Bragg Creek function.