Government & policy
Alberta dismisses all boards, creates
– In a massive shake-up, Alberta has replaced its nine regional health
boards with a single ‘super-board’ as a way of streamlining the
$13-billion provincial health system and to ensure that Albertans
receive the same level of care no matter where they live.
“MLAs have brought to me instances of where one side of the road in one
of the regions delivers services different from people who live on the
other side of the road,” said health minister Ron Liepert (pictured) at a press
conference in May.
“And so those are the kinds of things we need to ensure don’t happen in
the system because an Albertan is an Albertan and should receive similar
service across the province.”
The re-tooling of Alberta’s healthcare system took effect immediately,
with the appointment of an interim Alberta Health Services Board CEO and
In addition to the nine former health authorities, it also replaces the
Alberta Cancer Board, Mental Health Board, and substance-abuse
Liepert told the news conference that “community health councils” will
to some measure replace the local voices from the now-defunct regional
boards, but there has to be a single board governing the whole system.
Liepert has been contemplating such a move for several weeks, as Premier
Ed Stelmach asked him to try controlling Alberta’s endlessly
skyrocketing health budget, which has more than doubled since 2001.
The minister said the powerful new Services Board, whose lineup will
become permanent within nine months, will have to keep in mind
Stelmach’s recent comments that the government wants to pare down
administration costs, which amount to roughly 3.5 per cent of all
This furthers some of the Tories’ consolidation under former premier
Ralph Klein. In the 1990s, he folded more than 100 hospital boards into
17 regional authorities, and then later into only nine.
According to a report in the Edmonton Sun, government members have been
grumbling for years about the million-dollar salaries and benefits for
the CEOs of health authorities in Edmonton and Calgary, as well as the
dozens of public healthcare executives earning between $250,000 and
But Capital Health president and CEO Sheila Weatherill says she’s not
expecting to see a major reduction in the number of administration jobs
“There will be some savings because with fewer boards, that will reduce
administrative costs,” said Weatherill. “But the people we have now, we
need and we’re short of people.”
The government says the restructuring – the fourth in the last two
decades – will help remove contrary decisions that barred some Albertans
from receiving the same level of care as others.
As well, the province also took issue with six of the nine boards
running deficits, some of them repeatedly.
“I need to make it very clear this morning that today’s decision is
about governance only,” said Health Minister Ron Liepert. “Patients and
those thousands of people working in the system will not experience
change in the delivery of health services in their region.”
Liepert noted the new board will identify barriers to access but did not
explain why the single-board structure was chosen before the province
knew what those barriers are.
The change was immediately applauded by the Alberta Medical Association,
which said it’s time to get regional politics out of healthcare and
start focusing on individual patient service.
Yet making such a move without broad consultation could lead to labour
troubles, says David Swann, Liberal MLA for Calgary-Mountain View.
Swann said it will hurt efforts to fill Alberta’s shortage of doctors
A former medical health officer, Swann called it ludicrous to
restructure health care without doing a multi-year, comprehensive study
of what does and doesn’t work in health restructuring.
Charlotte Robb, former CEO of DynaLife Diagnostic, a private firm, will
head the new board’s administration.
Coupled with interim board chairman Ken Hughes owning an insurance
company and Liepert suggesting the search for a permanent board could go
international, Robb’s appointment led critics to suggest the
restructuring is part of a slow slide toward privatization.