Hi everyone, Mark Iype in Edmonton today.
The Alberta government has taken its first concrete steps in its plans to overhaul how health care is delivered in the province after the newly appointed board of Alberta Health Services said six of the organization’s top executives have been removed from their positions.
The announcement comes just a week after Premier Danielle Smith announced that she was going to dismantle AHS, and divide service delivery into four separate organizations covering primary care, acute care, continuing care, and mental health and addictions. The four pillars will be connected by what the government calls an integration council.
Former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister and physician Lyle Oberg was appointed by Smith to run the AHS board last week. And an overhaul of the leadership team was inevitable.
“Members on the executive team, and staff throughout Alberta Health Services, come to work every day to make a positive contribution to the health care being offered to Albertans,” Oberg said in a statement. “We will be respectful and deliberate as we move forward in the transition.”
The statement went on to say that the estimated 18-month transition to the new structure requires “new ideas, voices and leadership.”
Sean Chilton, VP and COO for clinical operations and information technology, has been appointed acting president and CEO.
Chilton becomes the third AHS CEO in the past 18 months, replacing current boss Mauro Chies, who had replaced Verna Yiu in April, 2022 after the United Conservative Party government removed her from the position.
One health-policy expert says any changes need to be well reasoned so health care staff – management and frontline – understand the rationale behind the upheaval.
“For systems as large, as complex, as costly and as vital as our health care systems, hunches, whims, and untested hypotheses should not be – are not – good enough,” said Gaynor Watson-Creed, assistant dean with the Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine and former deputy chief medical officer of health for Nova Scotia.
The leadership changes were announced days after a much anticipated report on how the province fared during the COVID-19 pandemic from former Reform Party leader Preston Manning was presented to government. His report had been commissioned by Smith in January after she became premier.
The report made 90 recommendations, many of which if implemented would strengthen individual rights and could inhibit public-health measures, such as those seen during the first two years of the pandemic.
Smith said the government would consider the report as it makes bigger changes in the system.
Smith and Manning have been critical of government-imposed mandates during the pandemic, including vaccine passports, masking and gathering limits that were implemented in Alberta and across Canada to protect overburdened hospitals.
Manning’s report also suggested that non-scientific evidence be considered, and that elected officials and the Alberta Emergency Management Agency “should be open to considering and investigating alternative scientific narratives and hypotheses.”
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief Mark Iype. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here.