9 to 1 – Metro US

9 to 1

The Alberta government will replace its nine regional health authorities with one large provincial body that will ensure better access to its ballooning $13-billion health-care system, says Premier Ed Stelmach.

“The present regional model … has served the province well, but this structure will not guarantee that we can get to the next level and that’s to help build a public health-care system that will serve Alberta’s growing needs,” said Stelmach.

However, critics of yesterday’s announcement say the decision is based on a lack of planning as it didn’t include any public consultation or input from health care staff.

“What we are attempting to put in place is a governance model that takes us into the 21st century that can get us better access in a more sustainable system,” said Health Minister Ron Liepert.

“If at the end of the day there is cost savings, that’s a plus, but it is not designed around cost cutting or saving money at this stage.”

With the health system taking up close to half of the province’s total budget, Stelmach says more provincial cash must be devoted to front-line delivery rather than paying for administration.

Critics, however, say dissolving the boards will harm regional health care that has already been through plenty of restructuring.

“Once again we are seeing a very arrogant approach to managing a very crucial and important issue to Albertans,” said NDP health critic Rachael Notley.

She said she’s disappointed that the government met behind closed doors without ever consulting with health care staff.

Liepert, meanwhile, says the government has created a seven-member interim board to manage all the authorities, along with the Alberta Mental Health Board, the Alberta Cancer Board and the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission, into one entity, for the next six to nine months.

The transition period would allow existing health authorities enough time to settle issues and contracts with its unions, said Liepert, before a much larger board is announced.

Liepert says anyone who works in the health-care system will not be affected by the changes.

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