NDP brings to an end Alberta PCs’ bizarre experiment with one-person heath-care rule

Posted on October 24, 2015, 2:33 am
9 mins

PHOTOS: Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman announces the restoration of normal board governance to Alberta Health Services at the provincial Legislature yesterday. Below: Newly appointed AHS Board members Linda Hughes, Glenda Yeates and Brenda Hemmelgarn. Below them: Premier Rachel Notley on the big screen at AUPE’s convention, as union President Guy Smith looks on, also yesterday.

A bizarre two-year era of one-person rule over Alberta’s massive, sprawling health care agency came to an end yesterday when the New Democratic Government of Premier Rachel Notley appointed a conventional board of directors to run Alberta Health Services.

The restoration of board governance announced by Health Minister Sarah Hoffman is clearly intended as a conservative measure, in the traditional sense of that word, to ease the administrative and policy disorder that has prevailed at Alberta Health Services since Conservative premier Ed Stelmach created the province-wide public health agency in 2008 for reasons that remain not entirely clear.

EDMONTON, ALBERTA: OCTOBER 2, 2008 -- Former Edmonton Journal publisher Linda Hughes was elected the University of Alberta's 19th chancellor. Her four-year term succeeding Eric Newell begins November 19, 2008. (Photo by Larry Wong/Edmonton Journal)Ron Liepert, soon to be a lowly Conservative Opposition MP in Ottawa but Mr. Stelmach’s health minister back in 2008, has said the decision was made by the PC caucus in a single day, a factoid found in a useful timeline of the history of AHS published by the Edmonton Journal yesterday. The real reason was long rumoured to be to clip the wings of the Calgary Health Region, seen by the Stelmach PCs as having grown too big for its collective britches.

Regardless, Albertans have now made their wishes for the health care system clear, Ms. Hoffman told the news conference in the Legislature yesterday morning, and “they want stability.” The appointment of a seven-member board is intended to provide that.

During the summer of 2013, during the political crisis caused by the erratic and entitled behaviour of then-PC premier Alison Redford, her health minister, Fred Horne, fired the entire 10-member AHS board for failing to follow his orders not to honour contracts giving a group of senior executives financial bonuses that had become an embarrassment to the government.

There was a certain irony in seeing a supposedly market-fundamentalist Conservative party hiring a single Soviet-style commissar to run the massive, 120,000-employee, $14-billion organization, but the place has been led by a series of single “administrators” ever since. Yesterday, the NDP restored normal business practices to AHS by naming a board.

YeatesThe fired 2013 board was later shown to be correct in its members’ assessment that the bonuses would have to be paid, but by then Alberta’s political crisis had intensified – setting the stage for the May 2015 election that ushered Ms. Notley and the NDP into power.

The NDP has clearly now come to the conclusion that while the amalgamation of nine health regions and three specialized health boards into AHS by Mr. Stelmach was probably a mistake, there is no going back without reducing the system to utter chaos.

Naturally, utter chaos appears to be exactly what the Wildrose Opposition demands. Yesterday, in a brief press release short on details of what the party is actually proposing, Wildrose Health Critic Drew Barnes advocated re-decentralization of the health care system.

HemmelgarnOne suspects, of course, that the confusion that would inevitably result from such a move would provide good cover and justification for privatization of health care delivery, always a key goal of the Wildrosers.

Well, NDP policy will not move in that direction. Ms. Hoffman told the news conference she had instructed the new board she wants “evidence-based decisions,” not the kind of ideological decision-making we often saw from the PCs and regularly hear touted by the Wildrose Party.

“Part of our platform was to stop experiments in privatization,” Ms. Hoffman stated.

Later in the day, in a speech to the annual convention of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, Ms. Notley also emphasized the government’s goal is to stabilize public services when it tables its first budget on Tuesday.

“Providing the services that people and families depend on is every government’s first responsibility,” the premier told the public service union’s 900 or so delegates at the meeting. “Stable public services support Alberta families, they support our communities, and they prevent a difficult economic picture from becoming worse.”

That this would also be expected of the new board was also noted by Ms. Hoffman at her newser.

The board members announced by Ms. Hoffman are:

  • Linda Hughes, chair, the first woman in Canada to be publisher of a major newspaper, the Edmonton Journal, and former Chancellor of the University of Alberta
  • Brenda Hemmelgarn, vice-chair, a former registered nurse, epidemiology PhD and University of Calgary Professor
  • David Carpenter, an accountant, former Lethbridge mayor, former chair of the Alberta Workers Compensation Board and the last sole administrator of AHS
  • Hugh Sommerville, a criminal defence lawyer from Drumheller
  • Marliss Taylor, a nurse, drug policy expert and program manager of a needle-exchange harm-reduction program in Edmonton
  • Glenda Yeates, CEO of the respected Canadian Institute of Health Information for five years and the holder of senior health positions in the federal and Saskatchewan governments
  • Richard Dicerni, senior civil servant in several governments, Deputy Minister of the premier’s department and head of the Alberta Public Service, appointed by the Jim Prentice Government in the fall of 2014 and kept on by Ms. Notley

 

Alberta NDP’s 2019 re-election strategy begins to emerge

In her speech to the AUPE annual convention in Edmonton today, I thought Ms. Notley began to reveal the bear outlines of her government’s 2019 re-election strategy – three bears, that is, with a serving of metaphorical porridge.

RachelScreen“As your Premier, I am committed to the Alberta way of doing things,” Ms. Notley explained to the union members. “That means talking straight, keeping promises, and supporting the services families count on to support children, to support parents, and to support grandparents.” She went on …

“Albertans were given three options in the last election, and not all of them did things the Alberta way:

“One was a party that had become arrogant and entitled, putting the interests of corporate donors ahead of regular people.

“The next was an extreme party that vowed to cut billions from health care and education, eliminating thousands of employees providing services that help Alberta families.

“And then there was us. We gave Albertans a clear, positive option to support prudent spending on the public services that mattered, even if it meant balancing the budget a little bit later, and asking those who did so well under the policies of the last government to contribute just a little bit more in taxes.”

Three choices: Too entitled … too extreme … and just right.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

9 Comments to: NDP brings to an end Alberta PCs’ bizarre experiment with one-person heath-care rule

  1. jerrymacgp

    October 24th, 2015

    Actually, Dr Hemmelgarn is not a nurse, she is a physician and former nurse. Her CV, available on the U of C website (http://contacts.ucalgary.ca/info/dmed/profiles/1-4840744), states she earned a Diploma in Nursing from the Kelsey Institute in Saskatchewan, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Saskatchewan, an MD from McMaster, and an MN and PhD to boot. She is not currently registered with CARNA, but with the College of Physicians, so cannot be legally described as a “nurse”, which is a protected title under the Health Professions Act.

    OTOH, Ms Taylor is a current RN, who shows up on the CARNA public verification lookup as holding an active practice permit.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      October 24th, 2015

      I have amended this to read a former registered nurse, which is certainly accurate. There are those who would quibble with Jerrymacgp about whether someone who has trained in a particular field but no longer practices or keeps up their professional registration cannot properly be described by the generic term for their former occupation, for example, a physician or a a priest. I note that the Edmonton Journal’s reporter solved this problem by referring to the two board members who qualify as “trained nurses,” which seems mildly insulting to me. As if there were professional nurses who were NOT trained! DJC

      Reply
      • jerrymacgp

        October 24th, 2015

        Well, maybe it is quibbling, but under Alberta law, the word “nurse” is a protected title, and nobody who is not registered with one of the three nursing professional Colleges (CARNA, CLPNA, or CRPNA) can be labelled as such. See Part 7, Section 128, sub (9) of the Health Professions Act. The law does not provide for someone previously educated as a nurse, but no longer registered, as able to continue to use that title, even as a courtesy, full stop. (Maybe the law as written is a bit overly proscriptive in this matter, but until changed, that’s the way it reads). The word “Doctor”, when used in the context of a health care provider rather than its academic context, is also a protected title, in Section 128, subsections (7) & (8).

        As for the word “physician”, it too is protected, along with a long list of others, in Schedule 21, Section 2 of the Act. Journalists are often sloppy about this sort of thing; I would not normally expect you, sir, to emulate that sloppiness. Your writing is normally of a higher standard of quality.

        Reply
        • David Climenhaga

          October 24th, 2015

          Jerry, it’s not sloppiness to defend the real and ordinary meaning of the words in our beloved language against the depredations of the private sector (trademark and copyright) and the public sector (regulation and legislation). Sloppiness is what various well-regarded dictionaries engage in when they define “civilian” as “a person not in the armed services or the police force,” since most police forces in democracies are civilian organizations. Language sloppiness, for private gain, is what corporations engage in when they attempt to trademark words or phrases which have meaning in our language, which belongs to us all. And, sorry, language sloppiness is what what governments and regulatory organizations engage in when they try to define well-understood terms that are also part of our language patrimony as having a narrower specific meaning and belonging only to a limited group. Sorry, but the appropriate response here is “physician, heal thyself.”

          Reply
          • Northern Loon

            October 25th, 2015

            Sigh! It would seem that by quibbling about the term ‘nurse’ both DC and JMG may have missed the point about the other key word ‘registered’. One cannot be a ‘registered nurse’ without first being a nurse, so if one had never been ‘registered’ as a ‘nurse’ then being a ‘registered nurse’ or RN is out of the equation as there is no body to claim ‘registration’ with. This has nothing to do with “language sloppiness”, but is simply fact, as the term “Registered” has to be acknowledged by a professional body before being used. Perhaps both DC and JMG should apologize to each other for focusing too much on the education portion and not enough on the confirmation of license, or in this case ‘Registration’?

          • David Climenhaga

            October 25th, 2015

            Very good point. Apologies so offered.

  2. October 24th, 2015

    I am interested in the zeal of stability that Ms. Hoffman believes Albertans are interested in. Actually I believe she is wrong in this matter.
    We didn’t vote for stability.
    If we had voted for stability we would have continued to vote Tory but we didn’t do this did we?
    We voted for change provincially and now, federally.
    Will Ms. Hoffman realize that she has mistaken Albertans in what we actually want? I certainly hope so.

    In the area of continuing care it is especially important that the NDP government keep it’s promises and restore trust among families who have been negatively impacted by the failures in this area. I am speaking of cases of retribution which include banning family members, eviction of residents, legal intimidation with the use of cease and desist letters and if this jolly act won’t do the trick families endure lawsuits. The dirty tricks of the continuing care system are before us and it ain’t pretty. The Minister has full knowledge of the continuing care playbook of unhappy tactics that are used to silence families because families like my family have informed her of the full range of strategies used to move families forward and cover up the problems. She has not done anything to help families who have faced these problems. Instead families have met with lower level staff and there has been no communication by the Ministry about what legislative changes will result from our meetings. In addition there has been a failure in communication that is quite reminiscent of the Tories and I do not believe that this lack of response is due to a lack of understanding of the issues since these issues have been in the media and have been brought forth by the Friends of Medicare as well as PIA. The NDP party has full knowledge of the issues in continuing care and yet they have not done anything about these issues. They have –however taken action on issues that are important to the party such as the elimination of corporate donations. It’s very disappointing to see the lack of action by the NDP and please don’t tell me that they are working diligently to eventually correct these problems. These are problems that don’t need much work believe me. They simply need the willingness of the MInister to act and she has failed to act on these issues.
    I believe the Minister of Health will act when these issues reappear in the public domain. Folks don’t know about retribution in continuing care but they will. As more families put their loved ones in care there will be an escalation in the complaints that will result in retribution. If the continuing care facilities can’t shut families up they will evict the resident and ban the families; if that won’t do the trick there are always the legal sledgehammers.
    Most Albertans do not know of these tactics that are used by the continuing care industry with the full cooperation of AHS and Alberta Health. The cover up in the area of retribution is astonishing; even newspapers and other media do not provide adequate coverage of the harm suffered by residents and their families when confronted with evidence of abuse in the continuing care facilities. I guess newspapers don’t want to be sued either; even when you publish the truth or because you publish the truth, it is very costly to defend yourself in court to prove the information is the truth. It helps of course to have CCHSS audits, Protection for Persons in Care reports and perhaps an eventual AHS audit to prove the family is speaking the truth.
    In any case, this junk is going on and families are suffering. Meanwhile Ms. Hoffman is spending her time on every other issue but the issue of retribution in continuing care. This is unfortunate.
    The Minister of Health is responsible for the safety of all Albertans in continuing care and in the healthcare system. The minister should look beyond maintaining stability at AHS and actually deal with the individual cases that haven’t been helped by AHS; she should work on behalf of families have suffered negative consequences for advocacy work. Silencing families and moving families forward are the tactics of the last Tory dynasty. Will the NDP folks continue these punitive practices of the continuing care playbook or will they make change happen?

    Currently, based on what I have observed of the failure of the Minister to act on behalf of families who have faced retribution I am not optimistic but of course this is early in the four year tenure. We may see some advancement as the NDP find their feet and hands in politics. I have noted however, a lack of transparency, a lack of accountability and a failure (already) to meet with constituents that indicates to me that the citizens will have to continue to do the work of change in this area.
    I am curious why Ms. Notley hasn’t encourage the Minister of Health to make change happen in the retribution issue in continuing care. During the election she spoke about change and we believed her. We left the Tories to vote NDP. Maybe this change business was simply a way to get Tory voters to vote for the NDP and now that the NDP folks are in power we are back to the past? I certainly hope so.
    Ms. Notley speaks a convincing change talk but is it all talk and no action? Only time will tell but right now in the case of families who have faced retribution for their advocacy work in continuing care it is all broken promises.

    “As your Premier, I am committed to the Alberta way of doing things,” Ms. Notley explained to the union members. “That means talking straight, keeping promises, and supporting the services families count on to support children, to support parents, and to support grandparents.”

    Reply
    • political ranger

      October 25th, 2015

      As with health care, so it is with every other department and aspect of life in Alberta.

      Not to diminish, rather to build upon, I note that the retribution and pandering going on in the health care biz are also rampant in the petro biz. case in point; Wiebo Ludwig. He zealously followed procedure and regulation for years to no other avail but ostracization and retribution. What is one to do when newborn family and previously healthy children and adults (to say nothing of the livestock they depended on) were dying of known pollution processes and the bozos in Alberta Environment and SRD sucked up to the petro-corps.

      This BS has been going on since the Klien era all across the board. This is the “Alberta Way of Doing Things”. It must stop.
      I agree completely with you Julie. We did not ask for stability at all. We want this crap changed.

      Reply
      • January 30th, 2016

        I have been looking at the work of the AHS board with interest. I am curious what this group of new hires will do at AHS. So far I haven’t seen them doing anything. This seems to be the only constant with the NDP government to date.

        But who knows? Maybe the CEO will make a difference and will change the culture at AHS.

        At least the new CEO for AHS is a nice person. Dr. Verna Yiu.
        There is some chatter about Dr. Yiu on the AHS website that extol her many fine achievements but more important than achievement is character.
        Dr. Yiu seems to be a nice person who as a good character.
        I like her and she is a good choice for CEO.

        I don’t know the other folks on the AHS board so I will only know them by their performance.
        The AHS board is full of folks who aren’t (at this moment) doing much but hopefully they will be about to clean house at AHS which badly needs not only house cleaning but major renovations.

        The AHS board should ensure that citizens who complain aren’t limited to Patient Relations but also can complain to other areas of AHS such as the Ethics and Compliance office.
        It would also be nice to be able to complain to Ethics and Compliance about the fact that the folks at AHS were not compliant with Alberta Health regulations in the need to have an appeal process for evictions.

        Why was there no appeal process for 44 years? Could it be because citizens never complained, never asked for change in Alberta, never asked for such an appeal process? Or could it be that the culture at the former health authorities, the current AHS and Covenant Health is so poor that families have no chance to appeal?
        I mean my family never got to use the appeal process that we waited for most of a year for.
        Why not?
        I guess when the downgrade happened for my handicapped sister from long term care to SL4, it just wasn’t possible to appeal the long term care eviction.

        There are problems at AHS, Alberta Health and at Covenant Health and we’re right in the middle of these problems.
        Most citizens won’t talk about them.
        I am hopeful that they will talk to the new board and the new CEO about these problems and not limit their chatter to the ineffectual Patient Relations Office where the silence is rather golden.

        http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/about/Page11898.aspx

        HomeAbout AHSCorporate OrganizationAHS Executive Leadership TeamDr. Verna Yiu
        Dr. Verna Yiu
        Interim President and CEO
        Dr. Verna Yiu is Interim President and CEO of AHS.

        Dr. Yiu’s previous role at AHS helped oversee the integration and coordination of a diverse, complex, end-to-end health delivery model for the province through accountabilities for five functional areas: Quality & Healthcare Improvement, Strategic Clinical Networks, Clinical Informatics and Clinical Information Systems, Medical Affairs, and partnerships with academic institutions and other physician-led organizations.

        Prior to joining AHS in August 2012 as Vice President, Quality and Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Yiu served as Interim Dean of the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta and also held senior positions in the dean’s office from 2000.

        Dr. Yiu is a graduate of the University of Alberta (U of A) and Harvard University, and is currently a Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta.

        Dr. Yiu has also led various areas of health administration for more than 15 years, both within the health care delivery system and in academic settings. Since returning to the U of A in 1994 as a pediatric nephrologist, her leadership roles have spanned heading clinical programs to spearheading medical education reform.

        Contact
        E-mail: [email protected]

        Phone: 1-888-342-2471 Fax: 780-342-2060

        Mailing Address:

        c/o President & CEO
        Seventh Street Plaza
        14th Floor, North Tower
        10030 – 107 Street NW Edmonton, Alberta T5J 3E4

        These details aren’t as important to me as the other stuff that I am familiar with.
        Dr.

        Reply

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