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Alberta eliminates local health authorities

The Alberta government has replaced the nine health authorities in Alberta with one ‘superboard.’ With the removal of rural health regions like David Thompson, many are wondering how this will effect health care for rural areas.  “What will happen to, and who will speak for the people in the rural communities that don’t necessarily have easy access to the major centres?” said former David Thompson board member Brent Pedersen.

 

Alberta Health Minister Ron Liepert says this is an opportunity to develop more powerful community health counsels. “In health, the community health counsels should be the voice of the community not the regional health boards, and so I would suggest that we have an opportunity by strengthening the community health counsels and actually setting out a role and responsibility mandate for community health counsels so they could in many ways be a more effective voice than under the regional health board model,” said Liepert.

 

The David Thompson Health Region currently only has one community health counsel that is specifically designed for seniors. The ‘superboard’ is the first step for the Conservative party’s plans to reshape the Alberta healthcare system. The new board will be called the Alberta Health Services Board and will also take over the Cancer Board, the Mental Health Board, and the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission. Liepert said one overarching agency will create better access to health care and a more sustainable system. “One of the problems you had in the past with the board model is if you were a community that was close to a boundary and you could actually be served by communities in the other region, you were somewhat bound by being in your own region, and the funding that would go with that region. I think we now have an opportunity to act more holistically with out any boundaries,” said Liepert. The new board will have seven members that will be announced later. There is currently an interim team until the permanent board is announced.

 

The NDP and Liberal parties in the Alberta Legislature say the new system will do nothing to solve the real health care problem in Alberta, which is recruiting and training new staff. “Not only does this not help; it hurts efforts to recruit more nurses by inserting chaos and upheaval in the system,” said Rachel Notley, the NDP health critic. The Liberals say the situation should have been better examined before acting so quickly. “The Tories have provided no evidence that they’ve analyzed two previous attempts at restructuring, and no evidence that this latest shake up of the system will improve access, quality and cost effectiveness of public health care,” said Liberal health critic Dave Taylor. Liepert said the Liberals criticism goes against the wishes of the people. “The Liberals want to study everything, but Albertans told them on March 3 we want action, we don’t want studies,” said Liepert.