Alberta Health Services getting dissolve – more disaster on the way

Alberta Health Services getting dissolve - more disaster on the way
Ose Irete/CBC - image credit)

On Tuesday, the UCP government introduced a bill to break Alberta Health Services (AHS) into four separate organizations overseeing mental health and addictions, acute care, primary care, and continuing care.

This decision has been met with widespread criticism. Many Albertans, including healthcare professionals, argue that AHS has been a role model for other provinces, admired for its integrated approach to healthcare management. The dissolution of AHS is seen by many as another example of the UCP government’s mismanagement, adding to their contentious record in areas such as education and job creation. 


Healthcare Professionals and Public Reaction

Critics argue that the restructuring won’t address the core issues plaguing Alberta’s healthcare system, such as the shortage of doctors, nurses, and hospital beds. They fear that breaking up AHS will lead to further chaos in a system already strained by staff shortages and budget cuts. Additionally, there is concern that the new organizations may struggle to coordinate effectively, leading to gaps in care and inefficiencies.

Healthcare workers have expressed their concerns, stating that the reorganization distracts from the real issues of underfunding and resource shortages. The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), representing a significant portion of AHS staff, fears that this move is a precursor to austerity measures and job cuts​.


Government’s Justification

The UCP government defends the move, claiming it will create a more focused and efficient system. For example, Recovery Alberta and the Canadian Centre of Recovery Excellence (CoRE) are expected to enhance mental health and addiction services by implementing evidence-based practices and increasing treatment capacity. However, critics, including NDP spokesperson Janet Eremenko, argue that these measures do not address the urgent need for harm reduction and wraparound services essential for tackling Alberta’s addiction crisis.


Public Opinion and Political Divide

Albertans are divided on the issue. A recent survey revealed that 43% of Albertans disagree with the restructuring, citing a lack of confidence in the government’s ability to manage the transition effectively​​. Furthermore, many believe that the real issue lies in insufficient resources and not just in the management structure​.

The political divide is sharp, with past UCP voters more likely to support the overhaul than NDP supporters. This division reflects broader discontent with the UCP’s handling of critical issues, including healthcare, cost of living, and job creation.


Potential Impacts on Healthcare Delivery

The dissolution of AHS is seen by many as a risky and potentially harmful move, exacerbating the challenges faced by Alberta’s healthcare system. Critics argue that the restructuring could lead to fragmented care, longer wait times, and reduced quality of service. The transition period, in particular, is expected to be turbulent, with potential disruptions in service delivery.


Concerns from Healthcare Advocates

Healthcare advocacy groups have also voiced their concerns. Friends of Medicare, for instance, criticized the UCP’s approach, highlighting the government’s refusal to follow best practices and its reliance on “cherry-picked” data to justify the restructuring. They point out that 2023 was Alberta’s worst year for drug poisoning deaths, yet the government continues to ignore effective harm reduction strategies.


Union Reactions and Labor Implications

Union leaders are particularly worried about the implications for labour relations. With multiple collective agreements set to expire soon, the restructuring could complicate negotiations and lead to further unrest among healthcare workers. The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), United Nurses of Alberta (UNA), and the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) are all preparing for contentious bargaining sessions.

As the UCP government moves forward with its plans, the true impact on healthcare delivery and patient outcomes remains to be seen. The coming months will be crucial in determining whether this bold move will lead to the improvements promised by the government or if it will result in more disaster for Alberta’s healthcare system.

The dissolution of AHS is a significant and controversial move that has divided public opinion and raised serious concerns among healthcare professionals and advocates. The potential for increased fragmentation, resource shortages, and labour disputes looms large, leaving many Albertans anxious about the future of their healthcare system.