Last week, the Alberta government released the final report of the Rural Health Services Review Committee, which contains recommendations to Alberta Health Services (AHS) that will improve the ability of communities to be involved in the health systems of their local areas.
AHS said they will start work soon on looking at the recommendations to see exactly what action needs to be taken and what the best timeframe will be in which to take it. One of the main changes in gaining more public voice will be establishing eight to 10 operating districts across the province.
“The objective we have in doing this, in making those changes, are to improve local input ... into decisions that can be made at a more granular local level than what we’ve currently seen,” said Vikki Kaminski, president and CEO of AHS. “Into things like resource allocation at either the community site or program level and looking at how we can streamline timely and effective decisions.”
She said they don’t yet have a “fully fleshed-out plan” aside from looking at between eight and 10 districts, but they’re going to ask each of those districts to create an advisory committee to talk about the process for committee selection and what the quality would be that they’re looking for.
The committees would be advisories to the local sites and services within their district, she said, and would be volunteer, not established boards with paid board members.
“These will be volunteers who have a knowledge of the area where they live and want to have input into the decisions around health services in those areas,” said Kaminski.
“So the advisory committees will then have a direct reporting relationship with a designated leadership team within those districts that will be accountable to a vice-president, a vice-president dyad for the north and one for the south, who will sit at the executive leadership table and give up all advice on some of the issues that we see emerging.”
She said the committees will have opportunities to discuss issues like the allocation of resources. AHS plans to hand over responsibility for capital repairs budgets to the local operating district so they can decide how to use the money most effectively.
Certain major decisions, however, will be kept centralized within AHS.
“Decisions around big new capital builds - a new hospital, a new family health centre, whatever it might be - still need to be co-ordinated centrally through Alberta Health services,” said Kaminski.
Other decisions they will keep centralized involve overall functions of finance, human resources, communications and new technology.
“I’ve used the example before, we don’t want to see a hospital make a decision to have robotic surgery if they don’t have the supports in place for robotic surgery,” she said.
“So we’re going to need to co-ordinate that decision through AHS itself.”
Kaminski said while they have made the decision to move into these eight to 10 operating districts, they realize that they’ll have to check with people to figure out what the boundaries should be and how they can make it the most effective.
She said the overall consensus from communities is that they want to be more involved in giving AHS advice, council and having local autonomy for decision making.
“We are going to go out over the next couple of weeks with a communications plan about how we’re going to solicit input, both within AHS and external to AHS,” Kaminski said. “And look to continue that process of consultation over April and May, be able to consolidate what we hear then in June and come up with the final approach for these operating districts and put them into effect by July 1.”