Health board pay not a raise: Bontje

Alberta Health Services Board member Gord Bontje says he is disappointed by media hype over board members’ $50,000 honoraria.

Gord Bontje

Alberta Health Services Board member Gord Bontje says he is disappointed by media hype over board members’ $50,000 honoraria.

On Wednesday in Red Deer, the board approved a policy to administer the honorariums that Health Minister Ron Liepert authorized in November when all 15 board members were announced.

In May, when government dismissed Alberta’s 12 health boards in favour of one provincial board, the members of the smaller interim board were receiving $40,000 each.

Bontje said board members did not give themselves a raise.

“When I got a letter from the minister formally inviting me to join the board, it said what was reflected in the resolution yesterday. We did not raise that or change that,” said Bontje on Thursday.

Board members also receive $750 for each board meeting.

Bontje said no one on the board is in it for the money.

“We’re all in this to try to improve the health-care system and make it sustainable and accessible and function better. That’s why we were asked to join this board. That’s the only reason I’m there.”

Government wanted professional governance for the huge task of merging Alberta’s health care systems and is treating it like a corporate board with similar remuneration, he said.

But the cost of governance will be reduced with the new board, he said.

The 15-member board replaced about 125 members who sat on nine regional health boards. Annual honorariums and benefits for the Calgary Health Region alone came to $188,000 for 2007-08 fiscal year.

The AHS board also replaced the AADAC board, Alberta Mental Health Board and Alberta Cancer Board.

Bontje said duties go beyond the monthly meetings. Members also sit on committees and must keep up to date with all the information and data they receive. And they take the responsibility very seriously.

“There’s a lot of people just like me. They take this stuff to bed with them and wake up at 4 a.m. and think about it.”

Meanwhile, Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann is demanding an end the honorarium increase.

“These board members are taking home so-called honorariums that are worth more than most people make in a year at full-time jobs. And we are asking seniors to pay more out of pocket for prescription drugs?” Swann said.

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