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 the 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 across the province 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.
Notley says she’s disappointed that the government met behind closed doors about the decision without ever consulting with health-care staff. Liepert says the decision was talked about among MLAs and his caucus for two hours yesterday morning.
The province’s health regions were reduced to nine from 17 back in April 2003.