Thursday, November 25, 2010

Alberta Health Services Works - Part I

Yesterday, it was confirmed. Alberta Health Services Works. It has done what it was designed to do.

Many Albertans in May of 2008, asked why the province chose to dismantle nine regional health authorities, a provincial cancer board, a mental health board, an effective and well-branded provincial addictions board and regional ambulance services into one large, kludgy and unmanageable provincial health authority. The purpose of that exercise became clear with the dismissal of AHS CEO Dr Stephen Duckett.

I'm not necessarily going to disagree with today's decision by the AHS board, but I will be adamant that it is about much more than a bloody cookie. There were many reasons why Dr Duckett had overextended his time here and why he needed to leave.

But none of those really account for why Duckett was fired and what the role of AHS is. Duckett was fired because healthcare became a political minefield for the Conservatives and they needed to be seen to be doing something. AHS was designed to be the fallguy when this point came.

Prior to AHS, the government figured it couldn't achieve meaningful reform in healthcare because it couldn't compel those pesky regional authorities to get on board with the changes it envisioned. Look at the problems caused when the Calgary or Palliser Health Authorities stood up on their hind legs. With a single health authority the government could exert enough influence to affect the changes it needed while maintaining the appearance of arms-length and having the scapegoat in place in case anything should go wrong.

There is no doubt in the tone and commentary provided by AHS Chair Ken Hughes yesterday that the decision to oust Duckett was made by government. Hughes stated explicity that the board was beholden to the Minister of Health and that the Minister made his wishes clear - that Duckett would take the fall.

A number of board members have now resigned from the AHS board. Their resignations are clear signals that the board is not independent from the minister and that these board members resent the lack of authority the board actually has.

We must now turn our attention on to Bill 17 - the Alberta Health Act, because it is calling for greater control and power to rest in the hands of the minister and cabinet and it also introduces another fall guy for the government to use when the need arises.

Don't worry too much about the Sherman amendment... Kill the Bill.

1 comment:

Ken Chapman said...

Kill the Bill because a half baked public consultation over the summer is a sham and the Charter is a joke but the real problem is who is in charge and accountable - should be the Minister...but not to manage the system - that takes experts. These boards, including PDD, Children Services etc. are just appointed buffers to protect politicians from the rabble - I mean citizens.