After less that two years at the helm of Alberta Health Services, President and CEO Stephen Duckett was relieved of his duties by the AHS board of directors. As they made their decision, board members were on the recieving end of pressure from their political masters in the provincial cabinet.
On The Rutherford Show this morning, AHS Board Chairman Ken Hughes said that “we did receive very clear directions from the Minister,” which suggests that the AHS Board’s autonomy disappeared once Dr. Duckett became a political liability for the PC Government. Speaking on CBC Radio this morning, AlbertaScan editor Paul McLoughlin said that the AHS Board had initially decided to suspend Duckett for two weeks until Minister Gene Zwozdesky ordered them to revisit their decision and terminate Dr. Duckett.
In what can only be described as bizarre day, the AHS press conference announcing Mr. Duckett’s future was rescheduled at least four times yesterday. Originally scheduled for 1:00pm, the conference was first rescheduled for 10:30am, then 3:30pm, and finally 4:45pm when the announcement was finally made.
A similar incident occurred later that evening, when a media conference scheduled for Premier Ed Stelmach and Minister Zwozdesky was moved from 5:15pm to 6:30pm. Unfortunately, the media room at the Legislative Assembly was half packed with reporters by the time Liberal caucus Communications Director Neil Mackie waltzed in to let the media know that the conference had been rescheduled.
There has to be some irony in that for everything he did during his time as CEO, it was the now infamous “I’m eating my cookie” video on YouTube video that was the catalyst for his dismissal. It used to be said that you should never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel. This experience lends some credibility to a new saying, never pick a fight with anybody who has a free YouTube account.
For all his faults as the chief administrator of Alberta’s health services, removing Dr. Duckett from his position will not solve the challenges facing the system. Although Dr. Duckett was not even close to universally loved in the health care system, he did not create many of the large problems in health care. The sole responsibility for many of the problems facing our health care system fall to a government that has become accustomed to constantly restructuring, and even creating near-chaos, within a public health care system that all Albertans depend on.
Meanwhile, MLAs were in the Assembly for an extended all-nighter until early this morning to debate an amendment to Bill 17: The Alberta Health Act (the amendment was introduced by now Independent Edmonton-Meadowlark MLA Raj Sherman). Dr. Sherman’s amendment would introduce legislated wait-times for emergency room visits.