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Alberta announces the 4 health agencies that will replace AHS later this year

The province has released more information on its plan to break up Alberta Health Services and replace it with four sector-based health agencies.

AHS will be replaced by agencies for primary care, acute care, continuing care and mental health and addiction.

The United Conservative government initially announced the changes last November.

Under the proposed Health Statutes Amendment Act, the health minister would oversee all four agencies and each would have a sector minister.

“We really need to make sure that Alberta Health Services in particular is focused on what it should be doing best, which is providing excellent acute care services, and we know that that has not always been the case,” Health Minister Adriana LaGrange told reporters at a Tuesday news conference.

The health minister will have the power to create additional sectors and designate sector ministers as they see fit.

LaGrange defended the decision to have multiple ministers involved in a move that’s supposed to streamline the health system.

“Currently, the structure is all under Alberta Health Services. This really teases out those individuals that are providing those services within Alberta Health Services, and looking to put them in organizations so that they can focus their efforts in a more concerted area.”

She claims the new legislation will reduce wait times and help ensure Albertans have access to a family doctor.

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“Running an efficient organization, making sure that the whole health-care system is efficient, will obviously relieve stressors on the front lines,” La Grange said.

“Through clear identification of roles and responsibilities, we will streamline operations, enhance accountability, and improve transparency within our health-care system.”

The legislation will also allow the health minister to move employees or classes of employees from AHS to the new organizations once they’ve been established.

Existing bargaining relationships and collective agreements will be maintained.

The province claims there will be no job losses for staff who transition to the new organizations.

“There’s always that opportunity for individuals to exercise their rights under the collective agreement, and if they choose not to go to a new agency, then there are provisions in place and that will be a conversation with their current employer,” LaGrange said.

Amendments will also be made to the Regional Health Authorities Act, which will be renamed the Provincial Health Agencies Act and the Health Information Act, which have not been updated since the 1990s.

The province says the amendments will be made to allow the transition to a sector-specific health-care system and place responsibility on agencies for operational planning and oversight of clinical service delivery.

The province says once the legislation is passed, Recovery Alberta, the mental health and addiction agency which was established last month, will start operating this summer.

The remaining agencies will be established in the fall.

The opposition New Democrats criticized the plan to dismantle AHS.

“The UCP’s bill to rip apart Alberta’s health-care system is nothing more than a plan to centralize more control in Danielle Smith’s office. This is a blueprint to escalate the chaos in our hospitals and clinics and will do nothing to improve results for patients or support staff,” health critic Dr. Luanne Metz wrote in a news release.

“When this plan was leaked to us last November, the risks outlined at the end of the presentation were deeply troubling. Top risks were identified as ‘risk of service disruption / failure,’ and ‘potential to fragment care delivery.’ To see strong language like that in a formal presentation to the government is striking. For the government to then carry on with that plan is highly disturbing.” 

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