Alberta tables bill to split AHS into different agencies

By Darcy Ropchan and The Canadian Press

Alberta’s health minister announced new legislation Tuesday to officiate the split up of Alberta Health Services (AHS) into four different agencies.

The government claims the massive overhaul will increase efficiency without job losses.

Health Minister Adriana LaGrange says the province’s health authority has taken on too much under one umbrella, and instead four new agencies will be created focusing on specific sectors of health care in the province. Primary care, acute, continuing care, and addictions and mental health.

“Currently the structure is all under AHS, and this really teases out those individuals that are providing those services, and putting them in the organizations so they can focus their efforts in a more concerted area,” LaGrange says.

It’s part of a multi-year transition estimated to cost $85 million.

READ MORE: AHS adds over 10,000 healthcare staff in 8th launch of Connect Care

If passed, the Health Statutes Amendment Act will see LaGrange taking on a new role as “oversight minister,” responsible for the strategic direction of the health care system. There will also be four sector ministers responsible for each specific health sectors.

Dr. Paul Parks, president of the Alberta Medical Association, says keeping different organizations connected and allowing a seamless transition for patients will be a tall order.

“Most health authorities are going to more integration and more connectedness,” he says. “If this is siloed and disconnected it will be a bad thing. It’s going to fail and it’s going to be trouble for patients.”

He says the province’s struggling health care system cannot bear more disconnection.

It’s expected that one procurement office will handle purchasing for the entire provincial system — a function long touted as a reason for Alberta Health Services.

Opposition health critic Luanne Metz said the government’s plan will centralize more control in Premier Danielle Smith’s office and do nothing to improve results for patients or support staff.

“This Frankenstein of a bill will continue the dismantling of AHS and stuff patients and providers into ineffective silos,” said Metz.

LaGrange says AHS won’t lose any of its more than 100,000 workers, because it’s ultimately the province that signs their paychecks.

“The government of Alberta is the employer,” she says. “Even though they may be residing in AHS right now, it is the government that is the employer.”

Under the proposed legislation the province would also reserve the right to amend the Regional Health Authorities Act, including making labour related changes.

The new Mental Health and Addictions agency is expected to roll out in June, with the remaining three sectors launching in the fall of 2024.

With files from Shilpa Downton and Lisa Grant

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