Alberta Health Services chairman Ken Hughes resigns

The head of the board that runs Alberta's health-care system, Ken Hughes, has announced he is stepping down.

Hughes won't say if he'll seek a Progressive Conservative nomination for Calgary-West

Ken Hughes, who has been chairman of the AHS board since 2009, has resigned to pursue other opportunities, the province says. (CBC)

The chair of the Alberta Health Services (AHS) board has stepped down from his position.

"It's one of the most challenging roles I've ever had in life," Ken Hughes told CBC News.

Hughes said he'll leave the "intense role" feeling pleased but it's time to pursue other interests.

"Every other province envies what we've been able to accomplish in Alberta, the savings we've been able to capture, the quality we've been able to define," he said. 

Of course Hughes and his board have not been without its critics.

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith issued a farewell statement Wednesday that alleged Hughes is responsible for long wait lists, huge health costs and doctor intimidation.

Hughes responded to that by saying he is proud of what 90,000 employees have accomplished in AHS and he'll stand up for that record any day.

There is wide speculation that Hughes will stand up for something else this month — the Progressive Conservative nomination in Calgary-West, a seat now held by retiring Finance Minister Ron Liepert.

Hughes is close to Alberta Premier Alison Redford and served on her transition team after she won the Tory leadership race. A provincial election is expected in the spring.

"I have nothing to confirm today. If I plan to step back into public life or serve us in another way, I would make that announcement in the new year," said Hughes.

Hughes will be temporarily replaced by AHS vice-chair Catherine Roozen.

With files from The Canadian Press