On Aug. 18, Alberta Health Services President and CEO Mauro Chies sent a memorandum to the province-wide public health care agency’s senior managers telling them that the highest ranking woman in their ranks would be leaving the organization today. 

AHS President and CEO Mauro Chies (Photo: Alberta Health Services).

Deb Gordon, AHS’s vice-president and chief operating officer of the organization’s clinical operations, “has been a competent and compassionate leader within AHS and former legacy health regions who through her mentorship and leadership has built strong teams and community across the province,” Mr. Chies told his management colleagues in the memo

The memo went on for almost 400 words – noting Ms. Gordon’s experience as a Registered Nurse, her many senior management roles, and her work on Alberta disaster responses. There was, however, no indication of the reasons for her departure. 

The same day, Health Minister Adriana LaGrange held a news conference in Red Deer about the government’s plan to have AHS’s Alberta Precision Laboratories subsidiary take back operations of DynaLife Medical Labs, the private corporation to which public facing APL clinics had been disastrously privatized less than 10 months earlier. 

There was no mention of a management shuffle at the top of AHS.

Yesterday, Mr. Chies sent another memo to his managerial colleagues telling them that it was OK for them to spread the word about Ms. Gordon’s departure today. 

Ms. Gordon’s duties will be taken over on an interim basis by Sean Chilton, AHS VP of people, health professions and information technology (Photo: Alberta Health Services).

The memo, entitled “Executive leadership update,” also said Ms. Gordon’s duties will be taken over on an interim basis by Sean Chilton, VP of people, health professions and information technology. In addition, yesterday’s memo said Mr. Chilton, also a respected manager and a nurse by training, will continue to be in charge of IT and Connect Care, a health information management system used by AHS. 

Readers will recall that in April 2022, the United Conservative Party, still led by Jason Kenney, sacked AHS president and CEO Verna Yiu, a physician, after six years of exemplary leadership through the pandemic. 

In November, the UCP under Premier Danielle Smith removed chief medical officer of health Deena Hinshaw, also a physician, from office. 

In late June it was revealed that Dr. Hinshaw had been quietly hired to lead the AHS Indigenous health team and then immediately unhired. It is still not clear who gave the order to pull the plug on the hiring of Dr. Hinshaw. 

Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, the team lead of the Indigenous Wellness Core program, immediately quit. 

As noted, no reasons have been given for the departure of Ms. Gordon, but it would be fair to observe that the top level of senior health care management in Alberta appears to be becoming a less congenial place for women executives. 

Cabinet interference in pandemic public health delivers blow to rule of law in Alberta

Anyone concerned about the rule of law and effective public health measures could not be pleased yesterday to learn that individuals still facing charges for breaking pandemic-related laws are off the hook because Jason Kenney’s cabinet and not Dr. Hinshaw gave the orders.

Former Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Q-adjacent anti-vaccine members of the cult-like Take Back Alberta faction of the UCP’s base, however, will be delighted by the decision by the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service to drop all remaining charges.

As chief medical officer of health, Dr. Hinshaw frequently failed to exercise her legal authority to uphold sound public health measures as then-premier Jason Kenney’s UCP cabinet swung wildly back and forth between inadequate COVID mitigation and irresponsible pandering to the party’s anti-vaxx base.

Yesterday’s development is the result of Court of King’s Bench Justice Barbara Romaine’s July 31 ruling that the orders were improperly made because of the interference of Mr. Kenney and his cabinet in the process. 

The ACPS said in a written statement yesterday that “there is no longer a reasonable likelihood of conviction in relation to Public Health Act charges involving the contravention of the disputed orders from the Chief Medical Officer of Health.”

This is unfortunate, but under the circumstances set in motion by Mr. Kenney, probably unavoidable. 

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  1. Unfortunately the RW will use this as an opportunity to preach about unjust charges and innocence of those charged but this is not a confirmation of innocence. The people charged are getting off Scott free due to the political interference of Jason Kenney. His government superseded their powers when they usurped the authority of Henshaw, whose authority was supposed to be independent of “the state” .

  2. Deb Gordon’s departure could very well be a retirement as she has been with AHS / Health Care for many years, or it could be the standard political exit phrase, “I want to spend more time with my family”, we hear so often. That way the disagreements stay within the party and no one gets egg on face.

    1. There are questions about this departure. Did she jump, or was she pushed? Is she seeking greener pastures elsewhere, or riding off into the sunset of retirement? We’ll have to wait & see, I guess.

  3. The UCP does not seem to ever learn and keeps on with too much political interference in AHS and health care.

    Getting rid of experienced people and instead putting in people who will be yes men is the recipe for disaster. The Dyna Life debacle is a prime example of this. There were probably experienced people in AHS who realized this would go badly, but they may have been reluctant to speak up, given the UCP’s inclinations to get rid of people who didn’t toe the party line.

    Once again the good administration of health care takes a back seat to the political agenda of the UCP, whether it be privatization or the current anti vax gang.

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