New executives to lead healthcare in Alberta
November 22, 2023
EDMONTON – The newly appointed board of Alberta Health Services said six of the organization’s top executives have been removed from their positions. Those changes include Mauro Chies, who has been the president and CEO since the UCP government replaced Dr. Verna Yiu in April 2022.
Other executives who are no longer in their roles include Dr. Francois Belanger, vice-president of quality and chief medical officer; Colleen Purdy, vice-president of corporate services and chief financial officer; Tina Giesbrecht, general counsel and corporate secretary; Geoffrey Pradella, chief strategy officer; and Dean Olmstead, chief program officer of capital management.
The announcement comes just a week after Premier Danielle Smith announced that she was going to dismantle AHS and divide service delivery into four separate organizations covering primary care, acute care, continuing care, and mental health and addictions. The four pillars will be connected by what the government calls an integration council.
Former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister and physician Lyle Oberg was appointed by Smith to run the AHS board last week. And an overhaul of the leadership team was inevitable.
“Members on the executive team, and staff throughout Alberta Health Services, come to work every day to make a positive contribution to the healthcare being offered to Albertans,” Oberg said in a statement. “We will be respectful and deliberate as we move forward in the transition.”
The statement went on to say that the estimated 18-month transition to the new structure requires “new ideas, voices and leadership.”
Sean Chilton (pictured), VP and COO for clinical operations and information technology, has been appointed acting president and CEO.
Other executive team members are Kerry Bales, Gail Fredrickson, Karen Horon, Dr. Peter Jamieson, Susan McGillivray, Natalie McMurtry, Dr. Sid Viner and Ronda White.
One health-policy expert says any changes need to be well reasoned so healthcare staff – management and frontline – understand the rationale behind the upheaval.
“For systems as large, as complex, as costly and as vital as our healthcare systems, hunches, whims, and untested hypotheses should not be – are not – good enough,” Gaynor Watson-Creed, assistant dean with the Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine and former deputy chief medical officer of health for Nova Scotia told the Globe and Mail newspaper.
The leadership changes were announced days after a much anticipated report on how the province fared during the COVID-19 pandemic from former Reform Party leader Preston Manning was presented to government. His report had been commissioned by Smith in January after she became premier.
The report made 90 recommendations, many of which if implemented would strengthen individual rights and could inhibit public-health measures, such as those seen during the first two years of the pandemic.
Smith said the government would consider the report as it makes bigger changes in the system.
Smith and Manning have been critical of government-imposed mandates during the pandemic, including vaccine passports, masking and gathering limits that were implemented in Alberta and across Canada to protect overburdened hospitals.
Manning’s report also suggested that non-scientific evidence be considered, and that elected officials and the Alberta Emergency Management Agency “should be open to considering and investigating alternative scientific narratives and hypotheses.”