01/31/2014 02:15 EST | Updated 04/02/2014 05:59 EDT

Alberta Health Services Pay Grid Adjusted For Senior Executives

Baldur Tryggvason via Getty Images
EDMONTON - Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne says the revamped salary grid for health executives will save taxpayers $4 million.

"As a government our role is to ensure that decisions made in our health system put patients and front-line workers first," Horne said Friday in a news release.

"The salary ranges are set at mid-range for public sector health-care executives in Canada, and help keep AHS administrative expenses among the lowest in Canada."

AHS, or Alberta Health Services, is the front-line delivery arm of health care, separate from the policy decisions that come out of Horne's office.

The salary changes, which came after Horne requested a review, will improve the low-end pay but reduce the top end salaries for senior brass.

Leaders used to make just over $146,000 when they started.

That minimum is now $22,000 higher, at $168,000.

The top-end pay used to be almost $644,000, but that's now been slashed to $515,000.

The reverse is now true for the CEO, who will make less at the entry rate — $480,000 — but is now eligible for more top-end pay, at $780,000.

The number of salary levels has been simplified, from six to four.

The review follows a reorganization of the top AHS ranks last year, which included a reduction of vice-presidents to nine from 80.

A review is also underway that will result in 15 fewer senior leadership roles, although no layoffs will result from it.

The new salary grid affects 80 senior leaders.

"The new salary structure for senior leaders is fiscally responsible and, at the same time, competitive enough to allow AHS to attract and retain leaders," Dr. John Cowell, the official administrator of AHS, said in a news release.

The salary issue has stirred up turmoil and dissension at the highest ranks of AHS for more than a year.

Last June Horne fired the entire 10-member AHS board after it refused to comply with his wish to cancel $3.2 million in bonus payments to 99 senior executives for the previous fiscal year.

The board said it was duty-bound to honour signed contracts.

Horne said the action was unconscionable in a tight financial climate that had doctors and teachers taking wage freezes.

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