Alberta plans to upend its healthcare system

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith announced yesterday that the province is planning to radically restructure its healthcare system. 

What happened: The plan is to split Alberta Health Services (AHS), the province’s central health authority, into four bodies focused on specific areas: Acute care, continuing care, mental health and addictions services, and primary care. 

  • Per recently leaked documents, legislation will be introduced in the spring with the transition expected to take 18 months, cost $85 million, and affect 250,000 workers.

Why it matters: Alberta’s healthcare struggles are indicative of those that plague most of the country (long wait times, closed ERs due to staffing shortages, swaths of people without family doctors, etc.), and Smith believes decentralizing responsibilities will alleviate issues. 

  • Like much of what Alberta does these days, it’s bucking national trends. In the past decade, health bodies have become more centralized across several provinces. 

Yes, but: Opposition leader Rachel Notley claims the chaos caused by the transition will offer cover for more private care providers to enter the system, further weakening options for the public.

  • Indeed, the leaked documents also mention that the province would look into selling publicly-owned continuing care companies CapitalCare Group and Carewest.

  • Private healthcare expansion is contentious. Some believe it can reduce stress on the system, others argue it will worsen fees and wait times by draining public staff.
Bottom line: As Canada continues to feel a healthcare crunch, Alberta will be a testing ground worth watching to see if a total restructuring can lead to positive changes.—QH