NDP health critic David Shepherd criticized the UCP government on Tuesday, claiming the government fired Alberta Health Services CEO Dr. Verna Yiu, adding to the health-care system's challenges. (Photo contributed)

Government prepared for ‘chaos’ after firing top health official: NDP

NDP health critic says health care system worse after firing head of AHS

Ambulances lined up outside Red Deer’s hospital and temporary rural health facility closures are evidence of the government’s health care failures, says the NDP health critic.

David Shepherd held a news conference on Tuesday to further criticize the government for firing Alberta Health Services CEO Dr. Verna Yiu, whose contract was not set to expire for more than a year.

Shepherd said documents obtained by the NDP through the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act show Health Minister Jason Copping was prepared to address questions about the “chaos” firing Yiu would create in the health system.

“Since the UCP decided to fire Dr. Yiu we’ve seen even more chaos in our public health care system. Ambulances lined up down the street in Red Deer unable to offload patients facing medical emergencies.

“We’ve seen general surgeries diverted away from that same hospital over and over.”

Shepherd said rural health care closures “are becoming a near-daily experience.”

Fourteen ambulances were spotted at Red Deer’s hospital on April 25 while Alberta Health Services juggled high volumes of seriously ill patients and patient transfers to other facilities.

On April 29, surgeries were diverted from Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre for the third time since mid-December.

A shortage of health assistants and doctors who help during and after surgeries led to the diversion of seven surgery patients to other facilities. About 250 surgeries a week are done at Red Deer’s hospital.

Sylvan Lake’s urgent care centre had to reduce its hours twice last week because of staffing issues.

Shepherd said “Dr. Yiu led and inspired Alberta health workers through some of the most difficult times they have ever faced even as the decision of their government left them increasingly exhausted and demoralized.”

“Albertans owe Dr. Yiu a debt of gratitude.”

Minister of Health Jason Copping responded to questions about Dr. Yiu leaving, saying 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.

— With files from CP