If you thought the Alberta Health Services board was acting, or could act, independently from the Alberta Government, you were lying to yourself. When an organization is funded by the government, the government always has the final say in how that organization is run and how those funds are used.
Not only is this true, that’s the way it should be. When the organization is in charge of using government money, public money, our money, of course the government should have the ability to step in when those funds are not being used properly.
Last week’s AHS fiasco was the perfect example of why that is necessary. At a time when front-line doctors are having their wages frozen and the government is cutting costs wherever it can to deal with a large deficit, the AHS board actually thought it was appropriate to pay out over $3 million in bonuses to its executives. If they doesn’t scream the need for government intervention, nothing does.
Our government consists of elected officials that are charged with acting in the best interests of its citizens. That is exactly what Minister Fred Horne did last week. He made a decision that was in the best interests of Albertans. In reality, Horne had little to no other options than to put his foot down after the AHS board refused to reconsidered paying out the bonuses.
Of course, as the AHS superboard was placed by the government in the beginning, they do share in some of the blame when it comes to the actions of the board.
However, Minister Horne showed he recognized that mistake by stepping in and firing the entire board in one fell swoop. Even if Horne knew about the bonuses as early as February, as some former AHS executives have claimed, this is still a case of “Better late than never.”
At this point, many are wondering what will happen to AHS and how it will be run in the future. Others say that if the government can step in and overturn decision made by the board whenever they want, there is no point to having a board in the first place. Still, others say that the implementing the AHS superboard was a mistake in the first place and that we are better off without it.
In a way, none of these things really matter right now. All that matters is that Minister Horne and the rest of the Alberta government recognize their mistake and work to correct it.