Last week, the UCP fired the President and CEO of Alberta Health Services, Dr. Verna Yiu, well in advance of the scheduled end of her contract. Minister of Health, Jason Copping said in a press release on April 4, “it’s time to move forward with an ambitious agenda to improve and modernize the health system, and renewed leadership at Alberta Health Services will support delivering those changes.”
Copping also said AHS has been planning a transition in leadership, “for some time AHS board has been planning for some time to start the recruitment process for a new CEO,” and that her removal would accelerate the timeline of finding a replacement. Despite the UCP’s attempts to brand the decision as a means to “modernize” the healthcare system, many people are concerned this rhetoric is nothing more than a thinly-veiled strategy to move forward with privatizing the healthcare sector. Some critics have called this effort a move toward a more Americanized health care system and should be a cause for concern for Albertans.
Alberta Health Services has claimed, “its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans,” but many have pointed out the paradox of “accessible” privatization efforts. When the burden falls on lower-income and working-class Albertans who cannot afford to access health services, those same people are the ones who pay the ultimate price.
In a recent press release, Public Interest Alberta said Dr. Yiu’s termination is surrounded by, “concerning circumstances.” In response to the news, rallies were held in Calgary and Edmonton last week to protest health care privatization in Alberta. The decision to fire AHS CEO Dr. Yiu, under the guise of “modernization” is an effective, but expensive way, for the UCP to get a strong proponent of universal and equitable health care, out of the way.
With the rising cost of living, cuts to health services, and increasingly aggressive privatization efforts by the UCP, it is no wonder people are terrified of the prospect of a future in which they would have to prioritize vital, life-saving health services over other basic necessities. The debate surrounding Dr. Yiu’s dismissal is fraught with nuance. Some UCP critics have suggested Dr. Yiu’s dismissal was in preparation for Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership review, as a number of media outlets reported Kenney’s approval rating had slipped below 30 per cent last week. However, many more have suggested Dr. Yiu’s removal was, in no uncertain terms, a half-million-dollar expenditure to ensure the Province is able to move swiftly ahead with its healthcare privatization agenda, which will undoubtedly have far-reaching impacts on low income and working-class Albertans.