Premier Smith Continues Political Games with Alberta’s Health Care

Premier Smith Continues Political Games with Alberta’s Health Care

This afternoon, the Premier announced that she has fired the Alberta Health Services (AHS) board and will be replacing them with a full-time administrator tasked with making further reforms.

EDMONTON -- As per their mandate, Alberta Health Services is “subject to the direction of, and the resources provided by, the Minister of Health.” Yet, blaming AHS has long served as a convenient means of deflection for the government. 

In 2020 the government paid $2 million to private consulting firm Ernst & Young to undertake a review of the organization, which provided the ideological roadmap to start the government’s process of privatizing our health care system. This past April, AHS president and CEO, Dr. Verna Yiu, was removed from her role without any justification provided by the government, and they have yet to permanently fill the position. 

“Premier Smith is following the age-old strategy when it comes to Alberta health care, using Alberta Health Services as the government’s scapegoat,” said Chris Gallaway, executive director of Friends of Medicare. “Rather than accepting responsibility for the multiple crises facing our public health care system, the Premier is treating AHS and its leadership as a political shield to deflect from the UCP government’s own responsibility for Albertans’ health care.”

Danielle Smith, for her part, has repeatedly made unqualified attacks on AHS, and particularly their performance in the province’s pandemic response.

“AHS has responded remarkably throughout the pandemic, even with worsening staffing shortages throughout our public health care system. The government repeatedly asked for more from Alberta’s health care system and workers without providing extra support,” said Gallaway. “Regardless of the Premier’s misleading rhetoric on the matter, AHS was able to more than double Alberta’s temporary ICU capacity, even while the government allowed the pandemic to spread unchecked.”

In the midst of an ongoing short-staffing crisis, and a drastic rise in respiratory illnesses, particularly among children, Friends of Medicare is deeply concerned about the impact that decisions designed to create further chaos, privatization and disarray will have on Albertans’ access to care, and on the health care workers who are struggling under an already strained system.

“There have been issues in our public health care system since long before this pandemic, and those need to be addressed through long-term planning and evidence-based policy. But instability in our health care leadership, abrupt restructuring, and a disregard for medical experts is the last thing Albertans need right now,” said Gallaway. “We can’t continue to let something as valuable as our public health care system be subject to these kinds of political games.”

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