Some powers restored to Health PEI board with new Opposition bill

An private member's bill from the Green Party that came to a rare tie vote in the legislature two weeks ago passed second reading Thursday afternoon. 

Controversial bill passes 2nd reading in legislature Thursday

Green MLA Trish Altass, who promoted the private member's bill, is pleased with its progress. (Legislative Assembly of P.E.I. )

A private member's bill from the Green Party that came to a rare tie vote in the legislature two weeks ago passed second reading Thursday afternoon. 

The Act to Amend the Health Services Act was sponsored by Green MLA Trish Altass and would restore some powers to the board of Health PEI that had been stripped away and transferred to the minister of health by the previous Liberal government in 2018. The board's seven members are appointed by the minister for three-year terms. 

"Under the current legislation, [there is] potential for political interference ... this really minimizes that risk," Altass said. 

The 2018 changes gave the health minister the authority to set out the organizational structure of Health PEI, put the minister in charge of setting strategic direction for the agency, and provided the minister with the authority to "do any thing that the minister considers advisable" in pursuit of that direction.

Health Minister Ernie Hudson had said there were only two times that authority had been exercised, but did not say when those were. 

Speaker Colin Lavie had voted two weeks ago to keep the bill alive on the order paper, a move he correctly predicted would "finally" get him on Compass, CBC P.E.I.'s six o'clock television news.

Thursday, Altass said she had reached out to Hudson and Premier Dennis King over the past couple of weeks "with the hopes that we could engage in a discussion about the concerns that they and other members of their caucus had expressed around this bill and come to a compromise that would improve the good governance of our health-care system while also addressing some of the main concerns that were brought forward." 

Hudson's amendment passes

Two amendments were put forward by Hudson, both of which passed. The first allows him to override a Health PEI board decision under limited circumstances — but also requires the minister provide a rationale as to why that was done.

"It is important for the minister, in a portfolio in a service that is as important to Islanders as Health and Wellness ... that the minister does have the ability to provide that direction," Hudson said. 

The second amendment gives cabinet the power to appoint a new CEO for Health PEI, choosing from a list of potential candidates put forward by the board.

Hudson said he was pleased with the compromises that had been reached. 

"I do believe this amendment does improve what we have currently, significantly," Altass agreed. 

The bill still requires third reading for final approval and then royal assent before it comes into effect. 

More from CBC P.E.I.


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