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Wednesday, 11 May 2011 14:16

More localized decisions with health issues: AHS

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By Rose Sanchez
Re-aligning the leadership structure of Alberta Health Services (AHS) to give more decision-making powers to the five zones in the province is seen as a positive move by the chairpersons of health advisory councils in southern Alberta.

Last week, Dr. Chris Eagle, president and CEO of AHS announced a “realignment of the organization’s leadership structure” as well as a move to increase direct physician engagement in planning and service delivery.

The major changes to the senior executive structure won’t be completed until the end of May, but it won’t impact frontline service delivery. There are seven major changes:

• A chief operating officer (COO) responsible for the acute and community care operations of all five zones (North, Edmonton, Calgary, Central, South);

• The chief medical officer (CMO) responsible for quality and improvement and clinical networks (along with the executive vice-president, strategy and performance);

• A shared decision-making relationship between the CMO and COO;

• A stronger, more independent role for zones with one operational leader for each zone and a zone medical director sharing responsibilities;

• A people and partners’ executive vice-president (EVP) to ensure a strong focus on supporting people and partnerships essential to success.

• Strategic planning will be consolidated under the EVP, Strategy and Performance;

• AHS corporate divisions of Legal, Finance and IT will become part of the CFO’s portfolio.

In the news release, officials state the advantages of the changes include a “greater emphasis on people, less emphasis on processes.”

Priorities will include local decision making and community consultation; physican and staff engagement; innovation and performance improvement and partnerships with care providers.

“People in both our health system and our communities have told us these changes are important for AHS today,” said Eagle in the news release. “Two things matter most to our patients: improved access and quality. That’s our focus.”

Dr. Barbara Lacey, chair of the Oldman River Health Advisory Council is pleased to see a focus on local decision making.

“I think it’s a positive move. Many decisions are better made locally,” she adds.

“The system was too big and too complicated. They needed to simplify it and identify more clearly where the decision making likes. I think it helps with accountability too.”

Lacey is encouraged AHS senior officials chose to listen to health advisory councils and residents telling them the system needed changing.

“I’m very encouraged they have done this. There were lots of people telling them this piece was not working.”

Dr. Ken Sauer, chair of the Palliser Triangle Health Advisory Council, is also glad to see more decision making will be done on a local level.

“I’m very pleased because they’ve moved from a strong centralized operation to five different zones.    It’s closer to where the health services are provided,” he says. “At least it’s a compromise and hopefully a real, positive move.”

Sauer adds prior to the decision to simplify AHS’ structure, it was like going through a maze to find out how decisions were being made.

“The big thing is physicians and health professionals at the local level should have the opportunity to give their thoughts.”

For now, the local health advisory councils will wait to see how the changes pan out.

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