Health Minister reaches out to health-care leaders in Alberta, Canada

Leadership in Health Services

ISSN: 1751-1879

Article publication date: 4 May 2010




(2010), "Health Minister reaches out to health-care leaders in Alberta, Canada", Leadership in Health Services, Vol. 23 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Health Minister reaches out to health-care leaders in Alberta, Canada

Article Type: News and views From: Leadership in Health Services, Volume 23, Issue 2

Keywords: Healthcare leadership, Patient involvement, Healthcare collaboration, Leadership policy

Gene Zwozdesky spent his first evening as Alberta province’s incoming health minister phoning health association leaders in order to open the door for discussions with doctors, nurses, technicians, pharmacists and others.

But although he’s eager to talk he said he doesn’t plan on changing the course set by Ron Liepert two years ago when Alberta’s 12 health authorities were melded into one super board.

“In fairness to Minister Liepert, he did an incredibly amount of heavy lifting. He helped shaped some policies that are going to drive a lot of the system and made some structural changes that we would agree are very important”, Zwozdesky said in an interview.

“I’m not looking at reversing anything at this stage, obviously. I’m new in the portfolio. I’m going to get better acquainted with the people and the issues and then make the right decisions, I hope, that will improve the system and arrive at the premier’s vision”.

Critics have already called on Zwozdesky to hire more nurses and staff. They want him to end plans to close beds at Alberta Hospital and send Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett home to Australia.

“I respect his credentials as a health-care economist”, said Zwozdesky, who spoke with Duckett Wednesday night. “I think he has a vast amount of knowledge, but I also want to ensure that we are completely on the same page. I’m going to keep a watchful eye on how that relationship develops”.

Zwozdesky also echoed previous statements from Duckett and Premier Ed Stelmach that no mental-health beds will be closed at Alberta Hospital until appropriate space and care is made available for them in the community.

“That having been said, neither will everyone be moved because there will always be a need of a certain level of institutionalized care”, he said.

Alberta Health Services has always said the forensic unit will remain at the hospital in northeast Edmonton.

Zwozdesky said he wants to forge relationships with the more than 100,000 people in health care in Alberta, much the same way he built rapport with people in the aboriginal community. As minister of aboriginal affairs, he visited almost all 47 First Nations, and successfully negotiated agreements involving the Grand Chiefs of Treaty 6, 7 and 8, the Metis Settlements General Council and the Metis Nation.

Rose Laboucan, chief of Driftpile First Nation, said Zwozdesky created a relationship of trust, credibility and openness with the aboriginal people.

In general, Zwozdesky said he wants to get everybody focused on “the No. 1 issue and that is patient or user care”.

Tom Noseworthy, a health-policy expert at the University of Calgary, said Zwozdesky seems to be a better listener than Liepert. “Some might say you could never have gotten to where you are now with a single delivery system if you didn’t have a minister like Ron Liepert to drive it, and I would agree with that”.

Zwozdesky said he will also move the health system forward and said people need only look at his history in government to know that he was not a ditherer.

“I think we’re in for difficult times, not because it’s a new minister but because of the times, because of the requirements to reduce staff, cut positions, etc”., Noseworthy said. “To me, this minister will be less publicly prominent than the former one and now our judgment of how we’re doing in the health-care system in Alberta is largely going to be directed and related to Alberta Health Services”.

That is where the responsibility for decisions sits but to blame Duckett for health cuts is misplaced, Noseworthy said.

“What has been launched will not be reversed”, he said. “I think now we need a whole bunch of healing; we need a whole bunch of introspection about what we’ve done. We need to pick up the pieces; we need to rebuild something. We don’t need a bunch of new innovations here. We’ve just got to finish now what has been started”.

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