Alberta Health Services spent nearly $250 million on consultants over an 18-month period, according to documents released Tuesday by the Wildrose Party.

The information shows AHS issued more than 500 consulting contracts from Apr.1, 2012 to Sept.26, 2013.

The contracts include $600,000 for executive coaching and $3 million for communications advice.

In one case, AHS paid $12,920 to Gibson Fine Art Calgary for art consultation services. The Wildrose estimates the health authority spent $460,000 on consultants per day. 

Wildrose Finance Critic Rob Anderson says the money could have spent on health care.

“You just have to wonder in what universe someone lives in when they're in a health care system is willing to spend $12,000 on art consultation rather than $12,000 on a new hip or knee replacement,” he said.

“The lack of priorities there is quite stunning.”

Health Minister Fred Horne agrees that some of the contracts are questionable but says many were a one-time cost to help set up AHS.

“If we look today at what AHS is spending on consulting contracts, at the end of December that was about $48 million,” he said.

“I think a lot of these earlier contracts were for large, specialized services that are connected with the set-up of the organization. We’re past those now. So I would never expect to see numbers that high again.”

Horne says the $600,000 for executive coaching was ordered by the former AHS board. He says the contract was terminated when he fired the board last year.