Province axes health execs

Twelve full-time CEO positions were eliminated Tuesday as Alberta's health superboard moved ahead with centralizing health-care delivery.

Twelve full-time CEO positions were eliminated Tuesday as Alberta's health superboard moved ahead with centralizing health-care delivery.

Ken Hughes, chair of the Alberta Health Services Board, says severance packages for departing CEOs have not been finalized. ((CBC))

Three of the executives will move to different positions while the other nine will not continue working within the Alberta Health Services Board, a centralized body created in May to replace the nine regions, the Cancer Board, the Mental Health Board and the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission.

"I emphasize this is all about the patients," board chair Ken Hughes said at a news conference in Calgary. "Obviously this is not an easy decision and it's not easy for the individuals and we respect that and thank them for their contribution to health care in Alberta."

Among those not retained by the new board is Jack Davis, the high-profile president and CEO of the Calgary Health Region who earned $1.2 million in salary and benefits in 2007.

Hughes suggested, however, that it was possible for Sheila Weatherill, who is leaving her $900,000-a-year job as head of the Capital Health Region, to pick up a future position where she can "contribute to public policy and health care in Alberta in the future."

New positions under Alberta Health Services restructuring

  • Paddy Meade, executive operating officer of continuum of care division.
  • Dr. Chris Eagle, chief operating officer, urban.
  • Pam Whitnack, chief operating officer, rural.
  • Aslam Bhatti, interim chief operating officer, planning and programs.
  • Jim Saunders, interim chief operating officer, corporate services.
  • Kay Best, interim chief financial officer, finance.

The terminated senior executives are expected to take home hefty severance packages in light of their salaries, but Hughes said the payments have not been finalized.

"In no case will it get near what Calgary is prepared to pay for a single hockey player to come to town to play for one year," he said, referring to the $1.95 million US contract the Calgary Flames gave forward Todd Bertuzzi on Monday.

"This is not a cost-cutting exercise. This is a redeployment of talent to make sure we deliver services as effectively as possible and create the access for Albertans that they need."

Hughes also hinted that more administrative cuts are expected in the coming months, pointing out there are currently seven different payroll systems in place where only one is necessary.

The board revealed Tuesday that it has created a continuum of care division split into urban and rural, as well as three other departments of planning and programs, corporate services and finance.

Three former CEOs will take on roles within the new structure:

  • Pam Whitnack, former head of the Chinook Health Region, becomes the chief operating officer for rural health delivery.
  • Andrew Will, former CEO of the Aspen Health Region, will support Whitnack as senior operating officer.
  • Jim Saunders, former CEO of East Central Health, becomes interim chief operating officer in corporate services.
Jack Davis, CEO of the Calgary Health Region seen here in 2006, is not continuing under the reorganized Alberta health superboard. ((CBC News))

Contrary to some reports that the CEOs were escorted out of their offices by security on Tuesday morning, Hughes said: "They were treated with a great deal of respect and there was no such activity."

Health Minister Ron Liepert forecast the cuts last month, emphasizing they would help "streamline" the health system, and not shortchange services.

Liberal health critic Dave Taylor said Monday it doesn't really matter which highly paid executive gets cut or how many of them — he watches what the changes may mean for patients.

"What difference is this going to make to the patient who doesn't have a family doctor, the patient who's lined up for hours upon hours upon hours, waiting to get through emergency, get into emergency, get into the hospital?" he said.