The Alberta government’s decision to dismiss the health services board signals deeper problems with the system, according to opposition parties.

Health Minister Fred Horne fired all members of the AHS board on Wednesday after they defied his directive to cancel bonus payments for the top executives.

The minister said awarding bonuses at a time of major budget cuts is out of step with the province’s priorities.

Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith agreed that the board members deserved to be dismissed.

She said the time has come to return to a system of local health boards.

'Empower local administrators'

"Go back to local decision-making, empower local administrators to work with local staff so they can deliver the best patient care, because the centralized model of delivering health care — it just isn't working," Smith said.

The AHS superboard was created five years ago to replace nine regional health authorities as well as the cancer, mental health and alcohol and drug abuse agencies.

Alberta’s New Democrats also said Horne’s actions demonstrate the superboard model needs reform.

"It's obvious that once the board was put in place the government has lost control of its compensation costs and bonuses," said NDP Leader Brian Mason.

"I think it would make great sense to replace the board with a deputy minister who's accountable to the minister, who is accountable to the legislative assembly."

Doctors concerned

Horne announced earlier this week there will be a review of the governance of Alberta's boards and commissions, beginning with AHS. The findings are expected in September.

Dr. Michael Guiffre, the president of the Alberta Medical Association, said there are concerns with how AHS will now operate.

"They are one of the major stakeholders in this, so we really need that part of the system to run well," he said.

"Really it begs the question of roles and responsibility. I think we’re really looking for that to get sorted out."

It’s unclear whether the bonuses given to AHS executives — worth an estimated $3.2 million — can legally be recovered by the province. Horne said the government is looking into it.