EDMONTON — Alberta's health minister says the former head of Alberta Health Services (AHS) was trying to set policy rather than simply implement it.
"It felt like that could have been the case from time to time,'' Sarah Hoffman said at the legislature Wednesday.
Hoffman made the comments after the CBC revealed the contents of Vickie Kaminski's resignation letter from November.
AHS works under Alberta Health Department
The CBC says Kaminski wrote that Hoffman's department was straying too far into her area of responsibility, which made it difficult to do her job and put her professional reputation at risk.
In particular, Kaminski wrote, the department overruled an Alberta Health Services decision to take over ambulance services in Calgary.
AHS is an arm's-length agency responsible for the day-to-day operations of medical care, but under policy direction from the Health Department.
NDP mandate different from PCs: Hoffman
Hoffman noted that Kaminski was hired by the former Progressive Conservative government with a mandate to expand privatized services under the public health umbrella.
Hoffman said that was not the direction given by the NDP government when it took power last May.
"Certainly we ran on a platform of ending experiments in privatization,'' she said. "Public health care is public business.''
Nenshi weighs in
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi took issue with Kaminski's version of events.
Nenshi said in a written statement that he was forced to go to Hoffman directly after Kaminski unilaterally proceeded with the ambulance takeover, despite directions from the health minister to hear out Calgary's concerns that the new system was expensive, unworkable and unsafe.
"This is not how AHS should be run and not what the citizens who pay the bills expect from our public servants,'' wrote Nenshi.
"Minister Hoffman's putting a stop to these games is not 'political interference.' It's proper governance of Alberta's largest expense.''
"This is not how AHS should be run."
Kaminski, in her letter, also said deputy health minister Carl Amrhein, the department's top civil servant, would order specific changes without committing anything to paper in what Amrhein referred to as "voice mode.''
Kaminski said she believed that was done to avoid a paper trail and to duck accountability in the event of freedom-of-information searches.
Hoffman said that's not the case, that she doesn't believe Amrhein was trying to avoid a paper trail and that she has never given such direction to her senior staff.
She said that while she doesn't personally use the term "voice mode,'' conversations are a common means of getting work done.
"I'd say most of us communicate in voice mode for most of the day.''
Opposition has concerns
Kaminski now works in Australia and couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Opposition Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said Kaminski's concerns are valid.
"It obviously shows that this NDP government is interfering politically.''
Progressive Conservative interim leader Ric McIver said Amrhein's "voice mode'' references suggest the government is trying to hide its actions.
Also on HuffPost:
Urgent cardiac surgery Target: 1 week Q1 2013: 2.2 weeks Q2 2013: 2.1 weeks
Semi-urgent cardiac surgery Target: 2 weeks Q1 2013: 6.9 weeks Q2 2013: 4.1 weeks
Elective cardiac surgery Target: 6 weeks Q1 2013: 18 weeks Q2 2013: 23.4 weeks
Target: 22 weeks Q1 2013: 35 weeks Q2 2013: 37.8 weeks
Target: 28 weeks Q1 2013: 41 weeks Q2 2013: 43.1 weeks
Target: 25 weeks Q1 2013: 31 weeks Q2 2013: 30 weeks
NEXT ---> Alberta healthcare horror stories
In 2010, Andres Martinez went to hospital to undergo a routine appendectomy. He would not make it out of the hospital. Three years later, a report examining the cause of his death, revealed a doctor who had already been working 17 hours straight, used the wrong surgical tool, that caused injury to a blood vessel.
In 2006, Rose, and Rick Lundy went to the Peter Lougheed Centre emergency room. At the time, Rose was three months pregnant, and was suffering from abdominal pains. Rick would approach nurses five times pleading for help to no avail. Rose miscarried the baby while sitting in the waiting room.
Problems with the Peter Lougheed Centre, didn't end with Rose and Rick Lundy. Erin Wilson form Strathmore lost her baby while waiting in the packed waiting room for six hours. Her miscarriage happened only a month after the Lundy's lost their child.
Deloris Morrison died while waiting for treatment at Grey Nuns Community Hospital in Edmonton. She and her daughter drove to the facility, which was farther away than the University of Alberta Hospital, because a wait times app said the second hospital had a shorter wait time. She was finally seen three hours later but bled to death internally from an aneurism while waiting several more hours to be admitted.
Adolph wasn't the only patient who vanished from doctors, and nurses. Suicides, escapes, and vanishing acts have plagued hospitals in Alberta. Starting in 2010, a nine month stretch at the Alberta Hospital in Edmonton saw 27 patients escape from the hospital grounds.
68 year old Lorraine Adolph was allowed out for a smoke at the Alberta Hospital Building 12, a mental health care facility. Her body was found behind an abandoned building a week later.
RCMP thought it was just another case of another alcoholic who had to sober up in jail cell. In May 2010, Kurt Kraus died in his jail cell in Gleichen. An inquiry discovered that Kraus ingested 10 anti-depressant pills, and swallowed hand sanitizer at a hospital in Vulcan.
Milk River, Alberta is named after a river that flows from southern Alberta, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. That fact is not way the town has been in the news. The town of under 1000 people has only one doctor, who has held off retiring while the town desperately seeks more doctors. The province states 40 rural communities are currently facing doctor shortages.
It is not uncommon to visit a hospital for surgery, and never see your family again. Medical mistakes, reactions to medications could increase your stay, or end your life. That reality was explained in a Walrus article The story cited a poll from 2004 that stated, 7.5 per cent of patients will experience at least one adverse event during their stay. Because of those events, more than one million extra days are spent in hospital care. Of the amount of patients who react badly to treatment, and/or medication, around 24,000 of them die.
To help ease the strain of the rural doctor shortage, the Alberta government initiated a program called the Rural Integrated Community Clerkship. The program places medical students from the University of Alberta, and the University of Calgary into rural towns, to ease them into the profession, as well as contain the issue of doctor shortage.
Greg Poirier fell down the stairs of his Edmonton home, and hurt his leg. Crawling up the stairs to call a cab, he went to the hospital, and sent home, and was called by a Alberta Hospital administrator, all within 24 hours, to return to the hospital for treatment. At the first trip, he was given pain pills, and his leg was bandaged. It was only during the second trip he discovered he had a broken leg.
The CBC has followed the dangerous, and sad state of Alberta's mental health care system. One case proves just how handcuffed Alberta's mental health professionals are in providing treatment. After cutting her arms from her shoulder to her wrist, Daisy Haynes was told she had to wait 9 months to receive treatment at a hospital. Diagnosed with major depression and emotional dysregulation, Haynes was given anti-depressants, and asked to wait it out.