Government to cut AHS costs without closures

Henrietta Strickland
February 7, 2020

The $2-million report was ordered by Shandro last summer to find efficiencies while not compromising care.

A review of health care in Alberta contains 57 recommendations and 72 opportunities for saving money.

The report by Ernst & Young urges the province to make 57 changes to Alberta Health Services that could save nearly $2 billion a year.

The government will not be following through on two recommendations outlined in the review as the health minister says there will be no hospital closures and there are no plans to consolidate urban trauma centres.

"Every dollar we save will be put right back into the health system to deliver on our promise to improve access and make the system work better for patients", said Shandro ahead of Monday's announcement in Calgary.

"We know for sure that appropriateness is one of the major focus that we will need to go towards into the future, to ensure that our health care is more sustainable".

Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes says he still believes there is a need to look for savings within AHS management. Staff engagement included feedback from about 1,200 physicians, 27,000 front-line staff and 4,200 AHS leaders.

Shandro says the government will have a better idea of savings when that plan is finished.

AHS employs 102,717 people, of which 70,139 are full time. The AHS executive team includes 14 full-time staff earning a combined $6.03 million in 2018/19.

The Alberta Federation of Labour says the report calls for deep cuts and the privatization of lab services.

In the spring of 2019, Alberta spent just over $2 million to hire Ernst & Young to do the first comprehensive review of AHS since the health agency was formed in 2009.

In the responses, 90 per cent of AHS staff surveyed agreed that a key AHS priority is preserving and strengthening the sustainability of Alberta's health system.

Public Interest Alberta says one recommendation shifts the cost of pharmaceuticals, medical care and supplies to long term care patients and away from the health care system. Those in DSL pay for it themselves.

"This review presumes the outcome of collective bargaining and physician agreement negotiations that are still underway", said Shepherd.

The report also is making wide ranging recommendations regarding contracting out support services, including food, laundry, security and housekeeping services.

Opposition NDP health critic David Shepherd lauded some of the recommendations for reform, saying they had been launched under the former NDP government, but cautioned against rash action when it comes to reforming rural health care and using more private clinics to handle routine surgeries. An example would be certain types of hernias. The report savings could potentially add up to between $1.5 and $1.9 billion annually the government noted. It also does not include implementation costs and other factors.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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