Dr. Verna Yiu, president and chief executive officer of Alberta Health Services, says more than 240 patients are in ICUs, including 186 with COVID-19. (Photo by The Government of Alberta)

Alberta Health Services announces departure of president, CEO

Alberta Health Services will start looking for a new president and CEO, as Dr. Verna Yiu will move on more than a year before her contract was set to expire.

On Monday, the AHS board announced Yiu’s departure and the launch of a search process for her replacement.

“We are very grateful for Dr. Yiu’s tireless leadership through the worst days of the pandemic, and we thank her for her years of dedicated service and commitment to AHS and to Albertans,” said board chair Gregory Turnbull.

“We have been planning for an orderly transition.”

Yiu said she has been privileged to work at AHS for the past six-plus years. Her current contract runs to June 2023 – the AHS statement does not say why Yiu left early.

“I took on this role in 2016 because I saw an opportunity to further solidify culture, teamwork and excellence within the organization,” said Yiu.

“I believed that we could develop better relationships with our patients and families, and with Alberta communities. I am so proud and grateful for all AHS team members as well as our advisory groups and councils, and all the foundations who support AHS.”

The AHS board will appoint an interim president and CEO shortly. A search committee was formed several months ago and the group has started a search process. The board has asked Mauro Chies, vice-president of Cancer Care Alberta and Clinical Support Services, to serve in the role of interim CEO on a temporary basis.

Alberta’s NDP says the United Conservative Part fired Yiu to “appease extremists” ahead of the leadership vote.

“Today, the UCP has pushed public healthcare in Alberta even deeper into chaos,” said David Shepherd, NDP Critic for Health.

“The UCP’s firing of Dr. Verna Yiu comes at a critical time for our province and for public healthcare in general. Dr. Yiu has served Alberta as the head of AHS for six years including the most difficult years in the history of our province.

“She has capably managed Alberta’s hospital system through a pandemic while the UCP did everything in their power to make the situation worse.”

Shepherd said Yiu is being fired for “fighting to protect public health.”

Minister of Health Jason Copping said it’s time to “move forward with an ambitious agenda to improve and modernize the health system and renewed leadership at (AHS) will support delivering those changes.”

“The AHS board has been planning for some time to start the recruitment process for a new CEO at the end of Dr. Yiu’s extended term. The agreement with Dr. Yiu that the board announced today will bump up the timeline for the transition and help the system move forward,” he said.

“We promised Albertans better access to surgery and a stronger publicly funded health system with better access overall. The pandemic has changed the timelines but it hasn’t changed the goals. They’re multi-year commitments and we need to move forward on them, supported by renewed leadership at AHS.”

—With files from The Canadian Press

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