New board in; CEO Vickie Kaminski out … just another day at Alberta Health Services!

Posted on November 28, 2015, 2:05 am
10 mins

PHOTOS: Outgoing AHS CEO Vickie Kaminski at an Edmonton news conference last year. Below: Redford-era health minister Fred Horne, PC premier pro tem Dave Hancock, NDP Health Minister Sarah Hoffman and Premier Rachel Notley’s just-appointed deputy chief of staff, Anne McGrath.

If you expected yesterday’s health care news merely to be the resumption of board governance at Alberta Health Services, you had a surprise coming. Oh, the board came back in yesterday, alright, but as it did, AHS President and CEO Vickie Kaminski went flying out the door!

KAMINSKI_CHART-JPGEveryone was extremely polite about the sudden conclusion to Ms. Kaminski’s brief tenure at the top of Alberta’s massive health care agency, but it’s been pretty clear for a while she and Premier Rachel Notley’s NDP Government were not singing from the same song sheet.

“I have sincerely enjoyed working at AHS since I joined the organization,” the former registered nurse and senior Newfoundland health bureaucrat said rather stiffly in her letter of resignation, handed out to media yesterday. “This is a personal decision for me and I will support the board during the transition period.”

“I want to thank Vickie for the passion she brought to her role at Alberta Health Services,” said Health Minister Sarah Hoffman in a terse prepared statement, quoted in its entirety in this paragraph. “I appreciate the range of experience Vickie brought to the table, from her work as a front-line nurse, to hospital administrator, and then as CEO. Vickie has been committed to health care for many years, and I wish her nothing but the best as she moves ahead to new opportunities.”

Horne“I am sorry to see Vickie leave AHS and I appreciate this must have been a difficult decision for her,” said AHS Board Chair Linda Hughes, her first official act on her first day on the job. “Vickie is well respected across the country as a health care leader and I want to acknowledge her commitment to the success of AHS and for her service to Albertans.”

In other words, so sad to see you go … can I hand you your hat? And by the way, don’t let the revolving door knock you off your feet on the way out.

Ms. Kaminski was appointed to a three-year term at a salary of $540,000 a year at the start of June, 2014, during the short interregnum led by Progressive Conservative premier pro tempore Dave Hancock, who had been chosen to replace the catastrophic Alison Redford while the doomed search proceeded for a political saviour for Alberta’s 44-year PC dynasty.

Before that, she was the president and CEO of Newfoundland’s Eastern Regional Health Authority.

Fred Horne, who was health minister during the tense Redford years and continued in that job under Mr. Hancock, made the announcement and pretty obviously had a hand in her selection. She was hired at a time when the relationship between the Alberta government and health care and other public employees was fraught, to say the least, with unconstitutional legislation on the books attacking the principles of collective bargaining and a drive under way to undermine public sector pensions.

HancockJim Prentice, the former federal cabinet minister chosen by Tories in September 2014 to lead them out of the wilderness turned out to have misplaced his compass. He repealed the most unpopular legislation, but the effect was a day late and a dollar short. On May 5, Ms. Notley’s NDP majority government was elected.

Since then, cracks have been increasingly apparent in the relationship between the government and the executive suite of AHS. Ms. Kaminski missed high-profile government events; Ms. Hoffman pulled the plug on a $3-billion plan to contract out Edmonton-area medical lab testing to a for-profit Australian corporation, dismissing it as an “experiment with people’s health and well-being.”

Ms. Kaminski’s leadership style at times was controversial as well. In mid-October, her public statement that 48 employees at the South Health Campus in Calgary had been found to have inappropriately accessed a patient’s information and that the employees faced serious discipline as a result, caused an uproar.

United Nurses of Alberta, the province’s registered nurses’ union, vigorously disputed the conclusions reached by AHS and vowed to seek redress for its members who had been impacted by what it called publication of confidential personnel matters that was illegal under provincial privacy law.

The official departure of Ms. Kaminski in January will mean the start of the search for the eighth Alberta Health Services CEO since the cabinet of PC premier Ed Stelmach cooked up the scheme to amalgamate the province’s health regions into a single corporate entity in one afternoon in 2008. Under her contract, she will receive no severance.

HoffmanSecond on that impressive list of CEOs, by the way, was Stephen Duckett, the Australian Cookie King, supposedly fired by Mr. Stelmach’s government in the fall of 2010 for rudely refusing to speak to a reporter because he was eating a cookie. That story crumbles when one considers the fact Dr. Duckett had become the lightning rod for popular dissatisfaction with AHS, and hence a growing embarrassment to the Tories.

Don’t take my word for that one-afternoon tidbit, by the way. It comes straight from he lips of Calgary-Signal Hill MP Ron Liepert, and he should know because he was Mr. Stelmach’s health minister at the time.

Since then, AHS has also seen a stream of Official Administrators – single-human “boards” hired to replace the last AHS board that was fired in 2013 by Mr. Horne for refusing to obey his order to break legal contracts to pay senior administrators bonuses that had become a political embarrassment to the Redford Government. In the end, AHS had to pay up anyway.

In other words, governance of AHS has been a gong show pretty well since the entity was created. One can only hope yesterday’s changes under the NDP will finally usher in a period of stability in leadership.

While opposition politicians did their best yesterday to give the impression this is not possible – the Wildrose Party in the service of its crazy scheme to break the entire system up into single-hospital boards, a recipe for chaos and privatization – that is not necessarily so.

Ms. Hoffman has emerged as possibly the most capable minister in Ms. Notley’s cabinet, so if the NDP government can make this tall order come true, she is probably the minister most likely to do it.

+ + +

Federal NDP national director named Rachel Notley’s deputy chief of staff

Anne McGrath, national director of he federal New Democratic Party, has been hired as deputy chief of staff to Premier Rachel Notley. She will start work on Jan. 4.

McGrathBoth Ms. McGrath and Brian Topp, who will remain as Ms. Notley’s chief of staff, were part of the late Jack Layton’s inner circle when he was leader of the federal NDP.

Ms. McGrath certainly has the credentials for the job. As chief of staff to Mr. Layton, she gets credit for being one of the architects of the party’s historic 2011 breakthrough to Official Opposition status in the final months of his life.

She has been active in the Elizabeth Fry Society, the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, and the Steering Committee for the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action.

On the downside, politically speaking – and you might as well hear about this from me before the conservative commentariat and the Wildrose Party start screeching about it – when she was a student she ran as the candidate for the Communist Party of Canada in the federal Edmonton-Strathcona riding in 1984.

I’m sorry, but I can’t imagine that aspect of Ms. McGrath’s curriculum vitae going over very well in Ponoka, let alone Pincher Creek or Picture Butte.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

14 Comments to: New board in; CEO Vickie Kaminski out … just another day at Alberta Health Services!

  1. Liam

    November 28th, 2015

    The Communists really ARE coming! Presumably to sieze the freedom-loving farmers’ land?

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      November 28th, 2015

      They certainly are, but first they want your first born. Even more importantly, those Commies want what is most precious of all for those rich, intelligent, and hardworking people – their money!

      And what will they do with all that misbegotten loot? Phew, probably waste it on schools and hospitals, and redistribute some of it to those lazy, dishonest poor people.

      Damn those Commies – I mean NDP.

      Reply
  2. Douglas Meggison

    November 28th, 2015

    Nice photo of the former comrade though. Thanks.
    AND what a newsy day!
    Your Blog is the best.

    Reply
  3. Expat Albertan

    November 28th, 2015

    Reminds me of a letter to the editor in the National Post earlier this year after the NDP won in Alberta. To wit: the writer claimed to have a conservative friend who had been a communist in his student days and used to hang out with fellow-communist Brain Mason at the University of Alberta. The letter writer used this to assert that Mason could not be trusted because, you know, once a commie, always a commie. Of course, this made me think that this should also apply to the letter-writer’s once-pinko, now conservative friend – meaning the writer, himself, had been duped by a communist, but, hey, that would that mean…uh…oh never mind!

    Reply
  4. jerrymacgp

    November 28th, 2015

    Re Ms McGrath, many of us moderate our politics as we get older. A Communist in 1984? So what? That was over 30 years ago.

    Re AHS, I think what the NDP is trying to do is make the best of a bad situation left them by the PCs. The creation of this monstrosity was a mistake, but there has been so much turmoil in health care since it started operating in 2009 that stability has some value. Maybe a new governing Board will provide that stability. However, with health care one of the largest slices of the provincial budget, it would be unrealistic for anyone to expect the Ministry of Health to be totally hands-off with AHS; after all it is still the Minister that is ultimately accountable for what goes on in health care, so the Government still needs at least a fingertip on the helm there. It’s simply a matter of how micro- or macro- they manage the organization.

    Reply
  5. Rocky

    November 28th, 2015

    She’s obviously reformed and become a good neoliberal like all the other NDPs. Probably wants Alberta to join NATO. Just look at that lovely, uncommunistic necklace!

    Reply
  6. ronmac

    November 28th, 2015

    A closet commie! In Notley’s inner circle! You’re kidding!

    I guess people coming into regular contact with officials of the NDP Gov’t will be well advised to watch the following.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpiRLEhPjXc

    Reply
  7. Bob

    November 28th, 2015

    I googled Anne McGrath; she was born in 1958. Thus in 1984 she would have been 26.

    When I was 26 I was a cowboy boot wearing, country music loving conservative, who was proud of my red neck ways. If the WRP is going to hold her to a 30+ year old political outlook, maybe they will invite me to attend their caucus meetings. I would really enjoy leaking what I heard.

    When I was at university, the editor of the student newspaper, The Gateway, was edited by a fellow named Gordon Turtle, and he used his position to present all sorts of fairly extreme left wing ideas. Fifteen or 20 years later, Ralph Klein had a spokesman named Gordon Turtle. I have always wondered if they were the same person.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      November 28th, 2015

      As noted in the post, she was a student at the time. A friend of mine who’s a real car-carrying Commie was slightly miffed that she quit. He said, “What the … ?” We all did things in out misspent youths that ought not to be held against us now. That said, also as noted, I thought folks would do better to hear it from me, in the proper context, than at some Ezra Levant travelling dog and pony show as if it were being suppressed by the “liberal media.” When I was the same age as Ms. McGrath was when she ran for the Commies in Edmonton-Strathcona, a friend who was involved in a scurrilous piece of student journalistic trash published a story under the headline “David Climenhaga: Comintern or Scottish Rite?” I deny both allegations.

      Reply
      • Bob

        November 28th, 2015

        Yeah, I thank my lucky stars there was no Facebook in the seventies and eighties!

        Reply
        • Douglas Meggison

          November 29th, 2015

          There was no FB in the 90s either…

          Reply
  8. Martin d'Entremont

    November 28th, 2015

    Interesting. Wonder what the back story on McGrath’s leaving Mulcair’s staff is?

    Reply
    • Chris

      November 30th, 2015

      McGrath is blamed by many dippers for the federal NDP’s poor election showing this fall. She was one of the “architects” of the disastrous fall to third place. Shed no tears for Anne. She has fallen into a nice six-figure position under the NDP’s “No party-insider left behind” social program. (That’s not fair. Every party on the political spectrum has a “no party-insider left behind” strategy. Even recently-elected provincial governments, no matter how loudly they promised to the contrary.)

      Reply
  9. November 29th, 2015

    Doesnt matter what party she has been in.There should be educational qualifications and related work experience most of these appointments have been to people eminently not qualified. The correct degree would be someone with ahealth administration degree. It overlaps many areas. In Alberta the were all let go with klien for mbas . That is when health care cost spiraled and admin personnel expidentially exploted. We have a system that is not a system. Is it a business model is it a health model or is it we will break it and then say we need a private system.People need to wake up . Trust me when you work in the us and before you did anything for a patient you did a cha ching with there card on everything you took in their room. And that include the glass they drank water from. Canadians need a wake up call to the threat it will cause them financially if politicians can’t get this correct.

    Reply

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