Calgary

$80M allocated for health superboard startup costs

Alberta's health minister is defending the $80 million cost of merging the province's health regions into one superboard.

Alberta's health minister is defending the $80 million cost of merging the province's health regions into one superboard.

As part of the first-quarter fiscal update, Health Minister Ron Liepert announced the figure Tuesday, as well as an additional $97 million to help cover the deficits of the regional health authorities.

The Calgary Health Region had projected a shortfall of $85 million, while Edmonton's Capital Health had estimated its deficit at more than $20 million.

The Alberta Health Services Board, announced in April, will merge the nine health regions into one. It will also replace the Alberta Mental Health Board, Alberta Cancer Board and Alberta Alcohol and Drug Commission.

Liepert said the $80 million will include paying severance for outgoing executives, buying new computers and covering startup costs for the superboard.

Money better spent on health-care delivery: critic

David Eggen, head of Friends of Medicare, said the $80 million could have been spent on actual health-care delivery, especially when the provincial government is projecting a surplus topping $8 billion. 

"Obviously the money's available and you get a fantastic return when you invest in the security of public health here in the province."

But Liepert said efficiencies gained from the merger will add up. 

"When you no longer have nine or 10 CEOs, and you have one, there's an obvious cost savings there, long term," Liepert said.

"But I want to emphasize that the changes we're making in health care are not about cost savings, they're about providing a more efficient, effective health-care system."

Albertans "will be given a clear number of who got what" once individual severance packages have been finalized, Liepert said.

The compensation is expected to be high for at least two outgoing CEOs: Jack Davis, who headed the Calgary Health Region, earned $1.2 million in salary and benefits in 2007, while Capital Health's Sheila Weatherill took home almost $900,000.

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