5 senior executive positions eliminated as part of AHS changes

EDMONTON – In response to a report on Alberta Health Services’ structure, government and AHS officials plan to reduce the number of senior executives from 80 to ten, and have already eliminated five positions.

On Tuesday afternoon, Health Minister Fred Horne, AHS Administrator Janet Davidson, and AHS CEO Dr. Chris Eagle outlined the findings of the review of AHS’ organization and structure, which was done by Davidson.

Horne requested the review of AHS in June, after he fired the entire AHS board after it went against his directive to not pay out senior executive bonuses. The board argued it legally had to pay it out.

At that time, Davidson was appointed AHS Administrator and asked to review AHS’ organization and structure.

Eagle explained he had already made changes to the leadership team on Tuesday morning.

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“The structure has changed, and so has some of the leadership management team,” he said while explaining the modified organizational structure of AHS.

“You will see far fewer senior executives,” he said, adding AHS must “ensure our organization is focused on patient care and front-line workers.”

To that end, Eagle said the majority of the 80 senior executive positions will be re-profiled to support front-line staff.

“Our effort will be to reduce the number of administrative positions as much as possible,” said Eagle, explaining that he’s heard a lot of criticism about the level of bureaucracy in AHS.

“We will review every management position… to ensure each advisory position actually has value.”

Severance packages for the five senior positions that have been eliminated will cost about $2.1 million. The severance must be paid out since it is part of the contracts.

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Davidson, the author of the review, said that moving to a single authority model has had its benefits, including approximately $700 million in cost savings and standardization of service.

“There is however, room for improvement, particularly at the senior management level of the organization,” she said.

The goal of forming AHS in 2009 was to balance out regional inequalities so that regional health authorities were all collapsed under the AHS umbrella, with one so-called ‘super board’ running the system.

Click here to view the former organizational structure of AHS. 

In 2012, a review from the Health Quality Council found the super board formation lacked planning, and that had direct results on health care.

At that time, Horne defended the single authority formation.

“I think we’ve got to be careful here not to throw the baby out with the bathwater,” he said.

On Tuesday, Horne stressed the findings of this latest review of AHS’ organizational structure, and the changes made in light of it, will make sure patients and front-line staff are the primary focus.

“One of the most important findings of this report is the need for a structure where patients and people are the top priority,” said Horne. “I agree with the Official Administrator, and want AHS to begin implementing this work immediately.”

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“This report … is not about reinventing the entire health care system from the ground up,” he clarified. Rather, it “proposes a modified organizational structure.”
While NDP Leader Brian Mason believes Tuesday’s changes are a good first step, he feels they are too little, too late.
“It’s taken them five years to start cleaning up Ron Liepert’s mess when he created Alberta Health Services in the first place, with a super board and over centralization. So they’ve been carrying 70 vice presidents for five years that we said were unnecessary, and now they’re finally getting ridding of them. That’s millions and millions of taxpayers’ dollars that was misspent, in our view, on a top heavy administration instead of going to front-line staff.”
“I would rather have seen a more fundamental reform of the health care system: eliminating the corporate structure, and eliminating two organizations – merging it into one,” Mason added.
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“Dr. Eagle and his team will now work to implement the findings of the report… to better focus on patients and people,” she added.
Danielle Smith feels the changes to upper management don’t mean much.
“Today’s announcements amounts to little more than this: 75 AHS vice presidents are going to get new business cards,” the Wildrose Party leader said.
“The super board remains intact and is as centralized as ever – and in fact – even more centralized because they’re going from five zones down to two zones. Questions about political accountability and autonomy still remain.”
Guy Smith, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), was encouraged by one of the focuses of the announcement.
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“I’m encouraged by what I hear over and over again this afternoon about supporting the work of the front-line staff. They make the health care system run every single day.”
However, Smith added support for the workers must be strong for this plan to work.
“After years of being crushed by heavy bureaucracy, the morale on the front-lines is still very low. There’s still a constant transformation on the front-lines which is affecting morale of workers every single day.  That has to be resolved first. There has to be confidence built up from the leadership team that translates on the front-lines.”
Horne also stressed “this report in no way will impact jobs for front-line staff in Alberta Health Services.”
Horne also revealed on Tuesday that Davidson had been appointed to serve as the deputy minister of health, effective immediately.
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You can watch his interview on Global Edmonton’s Early News below:

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