Alberta taxpayers paid millions in severance to AHS advisers last year, says Sunshine List

Those fired from Alberta Health Services (AHS) in 2022 pocketed $3.62 million in severance pay, doubling the $1.62 million paid to 11 AHS employees in 2021.

Alberta taxpayers paid millions in severance to AHS advisers last year, says Sunshine List
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With health-care reform on the way for Alberta, the cost of cleaning house surpassed millions of dollars in severance packages last year.

According to the Alberta government's salary and severance disclosure database and the sunshine list for Alberta Health Services (AHS), former AHS CEO and president Dr. Verna Yiu received $660,000 in severance pay — the highest among 23 executives and other advisers also let go.

Last year, those fired from the provincial health authority pocketed $3.62 million, doubling the $1.62 million severance paid to the 11 AHS employees who left in 2021.

Yiu left her position on April 4, 2022, under the premiership of Jason Kenney. She received $316,591.18 in salary and $31,153.22 in benefits last year. 

The UCP replaced Yiu with CEO Mauro Chies, who earned $484,961.88 in salary and $67,743.95 in benefits last year.

At the time of her dismissal, then-health minister Jason Copping pledged to bolster health-care outcomes by contracting more publicly-funded surgeries to private and independent facilities to cut surgical and procedural wait times.

In January, Alberta's UCP government announced immediate access to thousands more publicly-funded orthopedic surgeries in Calgary-chartered surgical facilities.

AHS has also requested two chartered surgical facilities, seeking 1,350 surgeries in the Central Zone and about 1,250 more procedures in the South Zone, ranging from hip and knee to general surgeries.

According to the Fraser Institute, the reasonable wait time for all surgeries in Alberta is 11.1 weeks, representing a difference of 8.1 weeks as residents waited nearly five months to receive treatment last year.

In 2021/22, the median wait time for Albertans needing orthopedic surgery was 48.4 weeks. The typical patient waits for 16 weeks to meet a specialist and 32.4 weeks to receive treatment after meeting the specialist.

Last October, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith fired the AHS board of directors as part of a popular campaign promise to overhaul government health policy and the provincial health authority. 

In February, the UCP worked quickly to create a panel to review governance lapses during the pandemic to improve future responses to health emergencies. The province has named five members to the COVID review panel, led by former Reform Party leader Preston Manning.

Smith has publicly expressed remorse over the province's handling of the pandemic by failing to scale up hospital capacity as promised and forcing the government to impose "freedom-busting" health restrictions.

Manning, announced as chair in January, will receive a stipend of $253,000 and a total budget of $2 million to conduct the investigation. He will propose recommendations to Smith in the coming months and follow up with a final report by November 15.

As the sole head of AHS, Dr. John Cowell reports directly to Smith and her health minister. He earned $360,000 for half a year of work. Details on his extended contract were private as of last week.

In her first act as premier, Smith unceremoniously fired Alberta's then-chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, and announced her replacement, Dr. Mark Joffe, last November. 

Joffe earned a salary of $460,337 in 2022 as chief medical officer of health and formerly as the vice president and medical director for Cancer Care Alberta clinical support services.

Hinshaw faced tremendous pushback during her tenure, specifically for implementing COVID health restrictions during the pandemic. In 2021, she made headlines after receiving $363,633.92 in salary and $227,911.35 in cash benefits.

According to the government's public sole-source service contracts database, taxpayers paid $261,600 for Hinshaw's private security in 2021 and 2022. 

By ending her contractual agreement last October, before the contractual end date of January 2024, her untimely firing entailed her over $181,000 in total severance pay. The former medical officer earned a $323,074.76 salary last year, plus $118,558.16 in cash benefits. 

On June 3, AHS issued a retraction claim, stating, "Dr. Hinshaw is not employed by AHS," after media reports revealed AHS had quietly rehired Hinshaw. Her job offer included a June 5 start date but has since been revoked. 

If hired, Hinshaw would have served as the Indigenous Wellness Core (IWC) Public Health and Preventive Medicine Lead in a part-time capacity.

According to the IWC, Hinshaw received the job offer in May. However, it is unclear if the decision to revoke that offer came before or after the leak earlier this month.

The CBC inquired with Premier Smith's office whether they had conspired to reverse Hinshaw's second stint with AHS. They received a brief response.

"Alberta Health Services is responsible for hiring decisions, and the government of Alberta does not comment on AHS personnel decisions," wrote Sam Blackett, press secretary to the premier.

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  • By Adam Soos


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