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Government & policy

Alberta commissions review of healthcare system

CALGARY – The province of Alberta has received a report on its $13 billion healthcare system from high-profile consulting company McKinsey and Co., but the information is not being made publicly available.

Despite requests from the public to hear the consultant’s recommendations, Health Minister Ron Liepert refused to discuss any details of McKinsey work, saying he would release the consultant’s recommendations “in due course.”

“They’ve come forward with some initial recommendations. We’ve taken a look and are now working with Alberta Health Services board relative to implementation,” said Liepert, following a speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

Officials with Alberta Health Services, the organization that is taking over the delivery of medical care in the province, confirmed McKinsey and Co. provided a briefing on the findings of its review. Groups such as Friends of Medicare and the United Nurses of Alberta said government should release the recommendations before making any further changes to the health system.

“It is totally inappropriate to be implementing what amounts to secret recommendations,” said Heather Smith, president of the nurses’ group. “The continued behind-closed-door antics of this government simply contributes to instability and uncertainty in the health system.”

The review comes as Liepert moves to revamp Alberta’s medical system. Last spring, he fired nine health region boards and consolidated them into a single, so-called superboard, the Alberta Health Services board, which is also responsible for cancer care and mental health.

In July, the minister said Alberta Health had hired McKinsey to conduct a review of health delivery services, saying the consultants see a system that “needs to become more efficient.”

The province previously hired consultants Deloitte Inc. to conduct audits of rural care in Alberta. The Deloitte audits, released publicly in June, questioned the efficiencies of some small-town hospitals and suggested several could become seniors care centres.

Dave Eggen, executive director of Friends of Medicare, agreed with the United Nurses of Alberta call for the McKinsey recommendations to be made public. “We have commissioned this (review) of public finances,” he said. “We deserve to see what’s there.”

Mark Kastner, a spokesman with Alberta Health Services, said it’s premature to speculate on what the board will do with the McKinsey recommendations.