09/12/2012 03:30 EDT | Updated 09/13/2012 07:15 EDT

Andrew Will: AHS Official Gets $738,000, 18-Month Severance Package


Critics are fuming and calling for an Auditor General review after an Alberta Health Services offical received a $738,000, 18-month severance package.

Friends of Medicare say AHS official Andrew Will received the massive pay-out in February after he left Alberta health to take the equivalent job in Saskatchewan.

“This is yet another insult to Alberta's health care workers and taxpayers, and we want the Auditor General to review it,” said Friends of Medicare Executive Director Sandra Azocar.

"This sweetheart deal makes a mockery of everything AHS has told Albertans about its executive contracts."

AHS spokesman Bruce Conway said Will was downsized, and although he was an employee with AHS during the last year-and-a-half that he worked in Alberta, Will was previously CEO of Aspen Regional Health from 2006 until the formation of AHS.

"He was with AHS from its formation, as Executive VP and Executive Lead, Transition, and before that, Executive VP, Clinical Support Services," said Conway.

"He was paid 18 months severance in accordance with the terms of his employment contract with the former Aspen Regional Health ... AHS inherited that contract upon the creation of AHS."

AHS has often said their hands are tied and hide behind what they call contractual obligations, said Azocar, adding while Will got an 18-month severance, a recently departed VP only got a 12-month package.

This is only the latest in a number of fiscal faux pas in the AHS to come to light this year.

AHS Chief Financial Officer Allaudin Merali lost his job this summer after it came to light he had put nearly $350,000 in the taxpayers tab in the form of expenses over a three-year period. He spent that money on, among other things, repairs to his Mercedes Benz and $30/hour butlers.

This was not the first time Merali has run afoul in terms of expenses.

He made headlines in Ontario where he expensed to EHealth Ontario teas, muffins and parking fees while making $2,700 per day, topped up with a $75 per diem. It's also been reported that Merali expensed to Ontario residents approximately $21,000 in flights to and from Edmonton.

AHS Board member Sheila Weatherill also lost her job soon after Merali, when it was discovered she had approved the expenses.

Alberta health minister Fred Horne said at the time he was “dumbfounded” by the events and vowed action.

"If Albertans are going to have confidence in our health care system, it is imperative that they know we are doing everything we can to ensure we never see something like this again," he said.

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