Some of the province’s top executives with Alberta’s health superboard scored some big bonuses last year.

Alberta Health Services financial statements show the executives earned $5.8 million in salary and bonuses in 2009.

Premier Ed Stelmach is defending the payout of the big bonuses.

“The overall salary including bonuses is a lot less than other CEOs that get paid across Canada,” said Stelmach.

But critics argue the system of paying out the bonuses has to go.

“I think it’s a pay-for-performance kind of mentality and I think it is unhealthy,” said Health Smith, president of the United Nurses of Alberta.

The Liberals also agree that the costly bonus system should be abolished.

“Decisions get made so managers can earn the bonus rather than necessarily the patient gets the care they need,” said Kevin Taft, health critic for the Alberta Liberals.

The Wildrose Alliance is also adding their two cents to the argument.

“It is clear that the leadership of AHS is handcuffed by political interference ... and is out-of-touch with our current economic reality,” said Paul Hinman, Wildrose Alliance deputy leader.

The criteria for the bonuses include reducing wait times in emergency rooms and improving access to hospital beds.