The Alberta government will restructure the delivery of health care in the province in a sweeping overhaul that Premier Danielle Smith promises will help solve capacity issues caused by a flawed system.
The changes will dismantle the single service provider model and spread the responsibilities of Alberta’s health provider, Alberta Health Services (AHS), among a handful of new organizations.
In a news conference Wednesday, Smith announced a myriad of structural changes that will alter how health services are delivered to Albertans.
Four new organizations will deliver health services in primary care, acute care, continuing care and mental health and addiction care.
Under the new structure, the primary focus of Alberta Health Services will be acute care and continuing care. Other AHS “delivery functions” will move to be accountable to the new organizations, the province said in a news release.
“Welcome to a new day for health care in Alberta,” Smith said during Wednesday’s news conference.
“Alberta’s health system isn’t working the way it should and the way Albertans deserve, and fixing it is critically important to improving Albertans’ quality of life.”
Smith said Alberta patients face unacceptable wait times, inadequate staffing and limited access to specialized care. She said structural issues are at the root of the problems.
Dividing responsibilities for health-care delivery among different specialties will lead to better outcomes and reduce strain on the system, Smith said.
“Improvements must begin with Alberta Health Services, the largest provincially integrated health system in the country. While all Albertans can and should be proud of our front-line professionals, the structure behind them is not setting them up for success.”
Smith has criticized AHS as too top-down and monolithic in its decision-making. She has said previously that the health authority failed to respond to rising hospitalization rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, Smith fired the AHS board and replaced it with a single administrator.
Leaked cabinet briefing documents, released Tuesday, outlined how the province plans to orchestrate the sweeping overhaul of AHS.
The documents say the government will start introducing legislation in the spring to make the reorganization happen over 18 months to two years, at an expected cost of $85 million.
The documents suggest the changes will affect an estimated 250,000 workers.
The province said protecting front-line health-care jobs is a priority during the transition.
The four new organizations will answer to a newly-formed AHS board charged with overseeing the transition and ensuring the system is running smoothly.
On Wednesday, Health Minister Adriana LaGrange appointed the seven-member board, which will be chaired by former Alberta cabinet minister Dr. Lyle Oberg.
Alberta Health will also restructure the current 12 regional advisory councils. The four health-system sectors, mandated to empower local decision-making, will work closely with new regional advisory councils, the province said.
A procurement and system optimization secretariat will also be created at Alberta Health that will monitor the delivery of goods and services and “drive efficiencies” within the system, the province said.