Above: Health Minister Tyler Shandro, Alberta Health Services President & CEO Verna Yiu, and Ernst & Young National Health Care Leader John Bethel speak to the release of the AHS Review Report. – GOA Photo
by Morinville News Staff
The UCP expects to save between $1.5 and $1.9 billion annually in internal savings as a result of implementing recommendations in the first Alberta Health Services (AHS) review in a decade.
The province says the AHS report, conducted by Ernst & Young LLP (EY) at the cost of $2 million, involved 32,500 AHS staff and physician survey responses, more than 75 health system engagement sessions, and more than 1,000 emails from Albertans.
The report contains 57 recommendations and 72 savings opportunities the government believes will up the quality of service and preserve the long-term sustainability of health services.
The government accepts the report but rejected two elements – hospital closures and consolidating urban trauma centres.
“The AHS review is a key commitment to Albertans, and I’m very excited about moving forward with implementation,” Minister of Health Tyler Shandro said in a media release Monday. “Every dollar we save will be put right back into the health system to deliver on our promise to improve access and make the system work better for patients. It’s about freeing up administrative resources so we can spend more directly on Albertans’ health care.”
The AHS report addresses four areas: people, clinical services, non-clinical services, and governance.
The government says AHS will engage staff and clinical leaders over the next 100 days as it develops a long-term implementation plan.
“AHS takes its responsibilities as fiscal stewards of taxpayer dollars seriously. We will continue to find efficiencies and increase outcomes for Albertans,” said Alberta Health Services Board Chair David Weyant. “This report is a tool that can help us do that. Implementing many of the opportunities will take time and resources – including financial resources. The board has full confidence in the AHS team, and we will do this work in partnership with all Albertans, including physicians, staff, communities, patients and their families.”
NDP Call it the Americanization of healthcare
Alberta’s Official Opposition Party criticized the report calling it an Americanization of the health system.
“Albertans expect their healthcare dollars to be carefully and respectfully managed,” said NDP Official Opposition Critic for Health David Shepherd in an NDP media release. “But, let’s be clear, there would be no need to look at cuts, Americanization, and lay-offs if this government had not chosen to hand over $4.7 billion to big corporations leaving less money for health services that Albertans rely on.”
The NDP found the Ernst and Young report light on details, and say Minister Shandro took an effort to distance himself from any job losses and wage cuts the implementation plan could cause.
“This review presumes the outcome of collective bargaining and physician agreement negotiations that are still underway,” Shepherd said. “It’s clear that this government plans to find savings by laying off Alberta healthcare professionals or cutting their pay, particularly in rural areas. This will hurt patient care, and Minister Shandro must accept responsibility for that.”
The NSP was also critical of the report’s recommendation to
reconfigure rural sites, including 36 facilities the report describe as not meeting criteria for clinical viability, as well as the potential to consolidate or close six emergency departments in small and medium community facilities. The NDP also take issue with the potential closure or consolidation of air ambulance bases in rural areas, and the privatization of long-term care facilities.
Long-term care for seniors a concern
The NDP was not alone in criticizing the implementation of the review, particularly with the potential of privatizing long-term care.
Public Interest Alberta (PIA) issued a media release shortly after the government, criticizing the report as reducing care and increasing costs for Alberta’s seniors.
The group took issue with a recommendation to move 1,300 patients in Long Term Care (LTC) beds to Designated Supportive Living (DSL) as well as increasing the rate Albertans pay for LTC. Public Interest Alberta says the difference between the two levels of care is that LTC care covers pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, and medical equipment by the public system. DSL has those same costs shifted to patients and their families.
“If the government adopts the report’s recommendation that 1,300 long term care patients be placed in designated supportive living, it will mean a significant increase in out-of-pocket costs for Alberta families,” said Public Interest Alberta Executive Director Joel French. “Along with the recommendation that long term care fees to families be increased, this ‘savings’ for government would be a significant increase in costs for the seniors who built our province.”
The report also recommends reducing staffing levels in long-term care settings, something PIA is opposed to.
“The government spin that quality of care will not be affected or will even increase is simply not true,” said French. “There is no other result possible from reducing staffing levels than to have lower-quality care. Our seniors rely on highly-skilled professionals to meet their needs, and it is clear that this change would reduce the quality of care they receive.”
AHS has approximately 102,000 direct employees and a budget of $15.4 billion annually.
The AHS report can be found at https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/c0724ccd-832e-41bc-90d6-a0cd16bc6954/resource/1e03ea8a-7948-48c4-bca4-109c20ce0f02/download/health-ahs-review-summary-report.pdf.