Alberta Health organizational changes announced

Albert Health Services released a report September 10, 2013 outlining recommended institutional changes to the structure of senior management. The report, drafted by AHS Official Administrator Janet Davidson noted that much time was spent on process and preparation of documentation – such as media statements and background notes – than was productive or necessary for optimal function.

The report stated that the organizational structure in place at time of review was increasingly complicated to navigate for staff and patients alike. The report also said that “At the executive level… this is more emphasis on corporate functions and responsibilities as opposed to clinical functions,” noting that it was not directly clear how the executive structure reinforced an emphasis on patients and people involved in localized health care.

Among her recommendations, Davidson said that providing quality health care services for the province should be the primary focus of a new health-care structure, with teaching and research a secondary concern. She followed by saying “corporate functions of the organization should exist primarily to support these roles.”

She also said that collaboration with partners and stakeholders should be prioritized, and that “every position in the [executive] organization needs to be rigorously reviewed and justified” on the basis of adding value to the objectives of the organization.

Resultant action

In response to this report, the AHS sent a press release noting institutional changes. The press release stated that the AHS had moved “from 80 senior executives to 10 [with the] majority of these senior executive positions… reprofiled to support front-line staff.” It was also noted that five positions are being eliminated.

Fred Horne, Minister of Health was quoted in the press release as saying that an integral aspect of the report was “the need for a structure where patients and people are the top priority.”

“I agree with the Official Administrator, and want AHS to begin implementing this work immediately,” said Horne.

Opposition response

At approximately 3 pm on September 10 Wildrose Opposition leader Danielle Smith  held a phone-in press conference to speak to her perspective on the changes.

“We were led to believe that today’s big health care announcement would finally be the one that Albertans were waiting for,” said Smith, “Today’s announcement amounts to little more than this – 75 AHS Vice-Presidents are going to get new business cards. The super-board remains in tact and is as centralized as ever.”

Smith expressed concerns that consolidation of decision making power would become more remote from the local with five zones becoming two, and said that layers of bureaucracy and a “murky accountability structure” were still issues facing the AHS board.

“It seems to me that there is still 13 billion dollars worth of spending that operates without the siginifcant oversight that we need by the Health Minister,” said Smith.

She said the AHS restructuring announcement fell well short of meeting the needs of local level operation, and she looks forward to hearing what the professionals in the system have to say about it.

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