PHOTOS: Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman. Below: Former Alberta Health Services CEO Vickie Kaminski and current CEO Verna Yiu.

Alberta’s health care community was abuzz this morning with word Alberta Health Services has renewed its contract with Dynalife Diagnostic Laboratory Services for five years.

As of lunch hour, the province-wide public health care provider had not published a news release explaining the decision, although CEO Verna Yiu issued a statement saying the extension “provides stability and predictability for staff and patients while AHS and Alberta Health transition to a new provincial model for laboratory services in Alberta.”

In October 2015, the Edmonton-based private company’s contract was renewed for a single year two months after Health Minister Sarah Hoffman ordered AHS to cancel a request for proposals on a $3-billion, 15-year medical laboratory contract for Edmonton and parts of Northern Alberta that would have resulted in a much higher level of privatization of an essential public service.

In 2014, with the Progressive Conservatives still in power in Edmonton, AHS had announced an Australian company called Sonic Healthcare Ltd. was the “preferred vendor” for the privatization contract, a deal worked out behind closed doors under then health minister Stephen Mandel.

When Ms. Hoffman’s August 2015 directive was announced, the minister informed media she had been presented no evidence the scheme was in the best interests of Albertans and promised her department would do a province-wide review of medical lab services. “I do not feel that I have enough evidence telling me … that there is a strong public benefit,” she said in her very short formal statement announcing the cancellation.

Ms. Hoffman elucidated that position later in the day, explaining the extension of privatization would have put about 30 per cent of medical lab tests in the province in private hands, and almost 75 per cent in Edmonton and Alberta’s north. She characterized handing over that much of an essential public service to a private, for-profit, foreign company as a dangerous and expensive “experiment in privatization.”

About 1,100 Dynalife employees and another 500 public employees would have been impacted by the change to Sonic, and critics argued the plan could result in increased pressure to perform unneeded tests to benefit the Australian company’s bottom line.

Dynalife, which had done the work in the Edmonton area for years, also launched an appeal of the decision and the appeal panel reported that AHS had “breached its duty of fairness” in the bidding process in a “substantive” manner, media reported at the time.

Vickie Kaminski, who was CEO of AHS at the time the privatization plan surfaced, defended the process notwithstanding the shortcomings revealed by Dynalife’s appeal. In November 2015, Ms. Kaminski resigned as the top executive of AHS.

She has since landed a job as chief transformation manager of South Australia’s health care system based in Adelaide, where she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation she quit AHS because “the Alberta health system was unable to achieve planned changes due to the politics involved.”

This post also appears on

Join the Conversation


  1. Possibly a move to nullify the extreme right’s outrage at most things the NDP do. The right which gave Dyna Care the contract in the first place can hardly criticize it.

    It may also be to give the government more time to evaluate AHS. Either way health care is a mess all across Canada.

    The best thing if politicians had the courage would be to put all doctors on salary. But with the CMA, the insurance industry, and the pharmaceutical companies all on the other side it won’t be easy, but it may be necessary to do it to control costs, but even then it is going to take a strong government to force it through.

  2. “a deal worked out behind closed doors”

    It was a competitive process. A competitive process the verdict of which was overturned by the NDP in favour of a sole source.

      1. Well, if you want to double down on your claim I have to call B.S. on that one, Dave. Where’s your evidence? Sonic was the consensus choice of dozens of AHS clinicians. It was not some sort of abbreviated RFP but one of our biggest ever. Full disclosure here: I currently do procurement for AHS.

  3. Australia is a very long way from Alberta. I don’t know if it matters at this point, but I wonder if it is more than a coincidence that Ms Kaminski, who previously gave the contract to an Australian company when she ran AHS, now has a job in Australia.

    At least she seems to have landed on her feet quite nicely, despite the debacle at AHS. I wonder if politics had anything to do with that? Perhaps it was someone she knew there returning a favour.

  4. Laboratory services in Alberta is already provided by a private company. Dynalife is part owned by LabCorp which is a huge US based medical testing company, and part owned by Borealis Infrastructure which is the investment arm of the Ontario Municipal Employee Retirement System. Thus, this announcement is not somehow saving public service from being privatized, but merely stopping a government contract from switching between firms. NDP attempts to depict it as anything but are very misleading to say the least.

    David, if the decision to award the contract to Sonic Healthcare was done “behind closed doors”, how would you classify the process used to award a 5 year extension to Dynalife?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.