AHS decentralization makes sense to health advocates

Longtime Central Albertan and municipal leader Lou Soppit had a hunch that health care would revert back to regional control. On Wednesday, the province announced eight to 10 operational districts would be established by Alberta Health Services. They will be in place by July 1 and will be responsible for delivering local health services and meeting performance objectives.

Longtime Central Albertan and municipal leader Lou Soppit had a hunch that health care would revert back to regional control.

On Wednesday, the province announced eight to 10 operational districts would be established by Alberta Health Services. They will be in place by July 1 and will be responsible for delivering local health services and meeting performance objectives.

In 2008, the province created a single provincial health system — Alberta Health Services — and a single governance superboard to streamline care, and reorganized nine health regions into five health zones.

“I always said that they will go right around and come back to something close to the local hospital boards we had years ago. You know better in your own area what you need,” said Soppit, former long-time mayor of Rocky Mountain House and current David Thompson Health Advisory Council member.

“I suspected all along that one person or one superboard was not the answer, there’s no doubt about that, sitting up in Edmonton taking care of the whole province,” Soppit said on Thursday.

Each new operational district will have a local advisory committee made up of 10 to 15 members to provide local input from community leaders, Health Advisory Council and AHS representatives, patients and families. They will meet quarterly and have input into areas like resource allocation and capital budgets for repairs and renovations.

Centralized decision-making will continue for new capital builds, the introduction of new technology, and corporate functions including finance, budgeting, human resources and communications.

Fellow David Thompson Health Advisory Council member Bruce Buruma said it sounds like the new advisory committees will have greater input and responsibility.

“(Health Advisory Councils) didn’t have any mechanisms to necessarily change things. We definitely had opportunity for influence. But it was kind of difficult to say this is what we achieved,” Buruma said.

David Thompson Health Advisory Council is one of 12 councils representing regions of the province created to advise Alberta Health Services and give public the opportunity to provide feedback on the health-care system.

He said it was time for more local control of health care.

“At the time, having the super board was a good thing. I think there were definite efficiencies that needed to be realized across the system. Now they really do need to be responsive to what’s happening on the local level.”

He said his council covers a huge geographic area, stretching from Drayton Valley to Hanna. Creating a smaller district stretching out from Red Deer would make sense.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com