Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health, is sworn into office, in Edmonton on Tuesday April 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Alberta nixes recommendation to close five rural hospitals, trauma centre

Health minister ordered report last summer to find efficiencies while not compromising care

Alberta’s health minister is rejecting recommendations from a health review panel to close down five regional hospitals and shutter one of Edmonton’s two adult trauma centres.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro says while he wants change in the system and has accepted many of the suggestions in the report, those two recommendations are off the table.

“There will be no hospital closures or consolidation of urban trauma centres,” Shandro told reporters Monday as he released a 220-page Ernst & Young report, which will serve as the blueprint for upcoming structural changes to Alberta Health Services.

Alberta is spending $20.6 billion on health this year, equivalent to more than 40 per cent of the operating budget.

Shandro said Alberta Health Services, the $15.4-billion delivery arm of the health system, will act on the other recommendations and provide an implementation plan by May 13.

The report “provides clear evidence for overdue reforms and opportunities where our system can do better in terms of patient services, in terms of outcome, in terms of value of money,” Shandro said.

The $2-million report was ordered by Shandro last summer to find efficiencies while not compromising care.

The report made 57 recommendations, including changes to work rules and pay for doctors and nurses, expanded use of private clinics, and further outsourcing of support services such as laundry, linen, food service and housekeeping.

It noted that Alberta has 16 urban hospitals handling well over three million people and 83 others in smaller regional areas caring for about 850,000 people.

It said of those 83 hospitals, 77 have emergency rooms that are underused — averaging three visits a night with a lot of very minor cases — and many of those could be consolidated or operate on reduced hours.

The report also said that close to half of the 83 hospitals could be reconfigured to get better value for money while making sure remote residents still get timely care.

“Underused hospitals lead to inefficient use of staff and facilities,” said the report, noting that under their criteria five unnamed facilities could be closed altogether.

The report also said for cities the size of Calgary and Edmonton one adult trauma centre and one pediatric trauma centre in each are enough.

However, Edmonton has two adult trauma centres, at the Royal Alexandra Hospital and the University of Alberta facility.

“Experience from other jurisdictions highlights that running two separate trauma sites in close proximity can lead to duplication (of high level, specialized) services,” said the report, which found many examples of both Edmonton facilities handling similar cases.

The report estimated a maximum of $1.9 billion in total savings per year. Shandro said that figure can vary depending on how recommendations are implemented, but any savings will be reinvested in the system.

READ MORE: Alberta plans to reduce surgery wait-times by building operating rooms, using private clinics

Dr. Verna Yiu, head of AHS, said the organization accepts the report and has already started working on some of the suggestions.

Opposition NDP health critic David Shepherd lauded some of the recommendations for reform, saying they had been launched under the former NDP government, but cautioned against rash action when it comes to reforming rural health care and using more private clinics to handle routine surgeries.

The Canadian Press

Hospitals

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Homeschool play to take audience for a ride

Ponoka Thespians showcase a feud, a twist and a wedding

Bridges, Bobtail are county’s big projects in 2020

Paving and replacing pair of bridges are scheduled for the summer

Chamber receives update from Ponoka County

CAO speaks on items of interest over the past year

Patients to take hit as doctors’ deal killed

Cuts may force Ponoka clinic to make changes, makes recruiting harder

Province commits long term to 4-H in Alberta

10-year funding commitment will sustain re-structured 4-H organization

VIDEO: Minister says consider coronavirus outbreak when planning for spring break

Foreign Affairs minister points to rash of new cases appearing in places like Italy and Iran

Prepare for new coronavirus like an emergency, health minister advises

About 81,000 people around the world have now become ill with COVID-19

B.C. residents in Wet’suwet’en territory have right to police presence: Public Safety Minister

Nevertheless, Bill Blair said officials remain ‘very anxious’ for the barricades to come down

Winnipeg police investigating graffiti on RCMP and other buildings

Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen denounced the vandalism

Alberta government asks court to stay judge’s order regarding oilsands decision

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Barbara Romaine gave Alberta 10 days to make a decision on the Rigel projec

Alberta must juggle sluggish economy, big deficits, lost jobs in upcoming budget

Premier Jason Kenney won last spring’s election on a promise to boost jobs, grow the economy

Calgary father convicted in toddler’s death from staph infection granted parole

Court heard that John was never seen by a doctor until the day before he died in November 2013

Premier, health minister announces first phase of Red Deer Hospital expansion

Alberta government is committing $100 million to begin expansion

Most Read