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Well being-care upheaval: A historical past of modifications to Alberta's system

From 200 well being boards to 17, to 9, to 5, to “I’m consuming my cookie” – a glance again at a long time of churn on the high of AHS

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Alberta Premier Danielle Smith introduced sweeping new modifications to the province’s health-care system Wednesday, breaking apart Alberta Well being Providers into new supply businesses.

The introduced modifications come a day after the NDP accused the federal government of attempting to pay attention management over the well being system within the premier’s workplace.

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The plan will see AHS streamlined to give attention to acute and persevering with care, in addition to the creation of a brand new major care system, and shifting psychological well being and habit care beneath the umbrella of the Ministry of Psychological Well being and Dependancy.

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The transfer is the most recent in main modifications to the well being system in Alberta, some courting again to sweeping strikes made by former premier Ralph Klein:


Within the midst of an enormous deficit-slaying effort and give attention to repairing the province’s funds, Progressive Conservative premier Ralph Klein kiboshes greater than 200 native hospital and public well being boards, changing them with 17 well being authorities assigned by geography.

Ralph Klein
Alberta Premier Ralph Klein speaks on an open line radio discuss present in 1994. Picture by File picture /Postmedia

Some argue the “native empires” had been too expensive, and particular person requests for sources had change into channelled by means of politicians who had little thought easy methods to prioritize them.

On the identical time, critics mentioned the brand new boundaries seemed to be rooted within the politics of the agricultural Conservative caucus extra so than practicality or logic.


A decade later, these 17 boards are amalgamated into 9 in an effort to make the system extra streamlined and accountable.


The PC authorities beneath Ed Stelmach strikes to dissolve the 9 well being areas, prompting the creation of a single governing authority at Alberta Well being Providers (AHS). It comes after the fierce competitors for sources amongst areas led to various wage and profit affords, and ranging ranges of service, relying on the place you lived.

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Then-Well being minister Ron Liepert spearheads the trouble, with the federal government promising that placing the system beneath one governing umbrella would save administrative prices that might be channelled into front-line care — though some later claimed the transfer was about muzzling criticism of the federal government from employees and regional boards.

Alberta Health
Alberta Well being Minister Ron Liepert introduced plans that units instructions and descriptions the following steps for future well being care within the province of Alberta on December 21, 2008. Picture by File Picture /Postmedia

Well being coverage consultants on the time warn the instability would possibly scare medical professionals away from working within the province, whereas others fear the centralization would create extra forms and fewer native decision-making, leaving rural areas with little say on how companies could be run.


The province broadcasts it has tapped Australian well being coverage skilled Stephen Duckett as AHS’s first chief government. Ken Hughes is known as board chair.


On the top of an emergency division disaster, Duckett famously walks previous reporters and refuses to reply questions saying he was too busy. “I’m consuming my cookie,” he mentioned repeatedly. The superboard boss — who later mentioned he was muzzled by authorities from talking to media concerning the ER issues — is pushed out. Duckett’s departure sparks an enormous board shakeup as 4 AHS board members step down, charging political interference.

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Alberta Health
Malcolm Mayes editorial cartoon from Dec. 1, 2010. Picture by MALCOLM MAYES /EDM


Anesthesiologist and longtime Calgary well being administrator Dr. Chris Eagle is known as CEO in Duckett’s place. He guarantees a brand new, extra decentralized construction. 5 new zones are arrange.

As AHS strikes to present high medical doctors and managers in its 5 zones across the province the brand new authority to rent employees and purchase gear, then-Wildrose chief Danielle Smith argues it must put much more energy within the palms of medical doctors and nurses.

“Attempting to centrally plan a $10-billion well being system simply isn’t doable,” Smith says.

By 2012, Smith was nonetheless crucial of what she referred to as the “unresponsive superboard forms in Edmonton,” saying it ignored native wants following the closure of a rural long-term care house.


Then-Well being High quality Council of Alberta CEO Dr. John Cowell releases a damning 428-page report in February that raises issues about dangerously lengthy emergency room waits, a tradition of “concern and alienation” and political interference.

In September, the province appoints businessman and AHS board member Stephen Lockwood as the brand new AHS board chairman, taking the place of Ken Hughes, who’d stepped apart to run within the provincial election. Lockwood later runs afoul of presidency.

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Alberta Health
Alberta Well being Providers Board Chair Stephen Lockwood, proper, and President and CEO Dr. Chris Eagle spoke about Minister Fred Horne’s announcement relating to Pay at Danger for AHS workers. They spoke on June 11, 2013 in Calgary. Picture by File Picture /Postmedia


Well being minister Fred Horne fires Lockwood and your entire 10-member board in June in a dispute over government pay. He instantly names veteran well being administrator Janet Davidson to the brand new function of AHS official administrator. From the 9 regional boards 5 years earlier, authority for the operations of your entire well being system is consolidated into the palms of 1 particular person.

In September, Horne undertakes one other well being authority government shakeup, ordering the company to drastically lower its vice-presidents ranks, dismiss 5 high executives and refine its whole well being administration construction. Horne appoints Davidson deputy minister of Well being. Cowell takes the job as AHS official administrator.


Vickie Kaminski, a health-care government from Newfoundland and Labrador, is appointed president and chief government of AHS in March, whereas Davidson takes over once more as interim official administrator after Cowell’s one-year time period ends. Carl Amrhein, provost and tutorial vice-president on the College of Alberta, turns into official administrator of AHS in November. His time period is because of finish in June 2015.

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In a single high-profile try and reintroduce native governance, PC premier Jim Prentice pitches the thought of establishing eight to 10 new operational well being districts. Then-Well being minister Stephen Mandel mentioned they wouldn’t be just like the earlier 9 well being areas, which he mentioned had been too aggressive and fought one another for sources.

In Could, a common election sees Rachel Notley’s NDP sweep to energy, and her authorities quickly broadcasts AHS will once more be overseen by a board construction that over the earlier two years had been changed by consecutive directors.

Yiu Kenney
Former Alberta Well being Providers CEO Verna Yiu and Premier Jason Kenney. Postmedia file images


Coming off the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UCP management race to interchange premier Jason Kenney in 2022 sparks a fiery debate concerning the function, construction and administration of AHS.

Working a management marketing campaign that emphasizes grievances over the dealing with of COVID-19, Danielle Smith argues that AHS was too sluggish to broaden its mattress capability to handle front-line wants in the course of the pandemic. When she assumes workplace, she fires the board of AHS and replaces it with a sole administrator, Dr. John Cowell, in an effort to fast-track reforms.

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Verna Yiu, employed in 2016, is fired as CEO. Mauro Chies, vice-president of Most cancers Care Alberta and Medical Help Providers, turns into the interim CEO.


Because the province prepares for the continued restructuring of well being care, Premier Smith tells reporters she’s going to keep province-wide integration for some issues, like main surgical procedure and coronary heart transplants, however including extra administration in native hospitals will enhance companies, particularly in rural areas and small cities.

“It’s not about going again to the way in which it was earlier than,” Smith mentioned, including AHS ought to be targeted totally on acute hospital care.

On Nov. 8, Smith introduced AHS would see a streamlined mandate to give attention to acute and first care, whereas additionally saying the creation of recent supply businesses.

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