In 2014 Alberta’s New Democrat party said they would “abolish Alberta Health Services altogether and bring the governance of the public health system back under the control of the Ministry of Health.” Health Minister Sarah Hoffman is already taking action on the last half of that promise, to add political oversight, but abolishing AHS is where the real solution lies.
This week it was revealed that former AHS CEO Vicki Kaminski delivered a scathing resignation letter decrying political interference as the reason she was leaving the post halfway into her three -year contract. She complained about the health minister intervening to cancel the lab contract, put a halt to centralized ambulance dispatch in Calgary, reduce the amount of pay increases to staff, and roll back plans to contract out laundry and kitchen service, to name a few examples. The problem in each of these complaints is the Minister was right, and AHS was wrong. The lab and ambulance dispatch decisions should have been canceled, union wage increases should be constrained, and decisions on the delivery of laundry and kitchen services should be left to local decision makers in local facilities.
The reason the Minister is forced to intervene is too often AHS makes decisions that don’t make sense.
There should be no issue with the Minister stepping in to troubleshoot problems that she hears from front-line staff, contractors and constituents. That is part of her job. The real problem is AHS keeps hiring chief executives who seem to think the Minister’s only job is hand over a $14 billion cheque and then butt out of their business. Allowing a massive 110,000 person monopoly health agency to operate without political oversight is a recipe for failure. If the Minister simply appoints a new CEO they will end up with the same problems as before. This is why Alberta Health Services needs to be abolished.
I asked Health Minister Sarah Hoffman when we could expect to see AHS dismantled.
My interview with her answer is below.