Alberta is considering dismantling its provincewide health care provider and could sell off its public continuing care facilities, according to leaked cabinet briefing documents released by the opposition NDP.
NDP Leader Rachel Notley said the proposal to dismantle Alberta Health Services would give Premier Danielle Smith’s office complete political control over all health decisions.
Notley said it would also bring chaos to the system and open the door to more privately delivered care.
“(The United Conservative Party government) created this crisis, and now they want to completely blow up our health care system,” Notley told Smith and the UCP caucus during question period Tuesday.
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Earlier Tuesday, Notley released to reporters photocopies of a computer slide show outlining details of the government’s promised overhaul of the health care system.
Notley said the documents were sent to the NPD anonymously.
“Is the Prime Minister really committed to respecting what is described in these leaked documents? Notley asked Smith during question period.
“One hundred percent committed,” Smith replied.
“We embarked on a process over the last year to try to work within the existing framework to improve performance, and we have been successful to some extent,” Smith added.
“But we need to do much more if we want to be able to make greater progress.”
Health Minister Adriana LaGrange told the House that the government would release its plan to reorganize the health care system on Wednesday.
“I want to be really, really clear. There is absolutely no question of privatizing health care. What we’re going to do is strengthen health care across the province,” LaGrange said.
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Smith has long promised fundamental reform of Alberta Health Services, or AHS.
AHS was established 15 years ago and tasked with implementing health policy and providing frontline care across the province, looking after everything from hospitals to retirement homes to mental health and addictions, family doctors and supply.
Smith criticized AHS as being too hierarchical and monolithic in its decision-making and said it had failed to respond to rising hospitalization rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, she fired the AHS board and replaced it with a single administrator.
The leaked documents describe a sweeping reorganization of AHS, affecting approximately 250,000 workers.
Under the new organization, AHS would become one of four agencies that oversee health care tied not to geographic regions, as is currently the case, but to service delivery.
The AHS would become the acute care organization, responsible for running hospitals and, for the time being, laboratory and ambulance services.
There would be a primary care organization next door, whose mandate would be to find a family doctor for every Albertan.
There would be a continuing care organization to oversee and manage these facilities. During the reorganization, the government would also examine the possibility of selling AHS’s continuing care subsidiaries, CapitalCare Group and Carewest.
The fourth agency – a mental health and addiction organization – would work directly with the Department of Mental Health and Addiction to promote the broader goal of a recovery-oriented system.
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The four agencies would report to an integration council chaired by the Minister of Health. The council would include Mental Health and Addictions Minister Dan Williams, senior ministry officials and the leaders of the four sub-groups.
A separate committee would handle purchasing and other tasks, such as legal matters and payroll.
Notley told reporters the change would create chaos, given that the mandates of the four groups would inevitably intersect and overlap in an integrated health system.
Smith promised the new system would strengthen local and regional decision-making.
The proposal encourages regions to offer suggestions through advisory committees, but decision-making authority remains in the hands of the four new organizations and LaGrange’s umbrella council.
The documents indicate the government is expected to begin passing legislation in the spring for the reorganization to take place over 18 months to two years, at an expected cost of $85 million.
The documents also call on the cabinet to choose a new AHS board of directors that would be responsible for winding down AHS operations and determining whether AHS should still play a role in ambulance and emergency services. laboratory.
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Chris Gallaway, head of the advocacy group Friends of Medicare, said the documents show the province is intent on causing further disruption at the expense of solving pressing problems such as the shortage of health-care workers.
“The people of this province deserve to know that our public health care is protected and strengthened, not dismantled and thrown into disarray to suit the political whims of the government or the prime minister of the day,” Gallaway said in a communicated.
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