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Okotoks doctor skeptical of province's health care plans

Some doctors and nurses are skeptical that the UCP government’s plan to restructure health care in the province will improve service delivery.
Dr Troy McKibbin Petition 0680 BWC
Okotoks physician Dr. Troy McKibbin poses in front of the Okotoks Urgent Care Unit in 2019. (Brent Calver/Western Wheel)

Some doctors and nurses are skeptical that the UCP government’s plan to restructure health care in the province will improve service delivery. 

Last week, the province announced that health care delivery will be separated into four organizations that were all previously the responsibility of Alberta Health Services. 

Under the new arrangement, health care will be separated into acute care, primary care, continuing care, and mental health and addiction, with the four organizations in place by fall 2024. 

The Province said AHS will continue to have a role in health care delivery, with its focus moving to primary and continuing care 

Dr. Troy McKibbin, an Okotoks urgent care and emergency physician, said the changes are unnecessary and won’t have much of an impact.

“To have them as separate organizations, in a siloed fashion, is not going to improve efficiency of health care delivery, as I see it,” McKibbin said. 

He said that although the information released so far is a sketch outline and is low on detail, he has concerns about the re-organization as it has been laid out. 

“I think there's going to be some unintended consequences,” he said. 

The proposal to divide care doesn’t make sense, particularly with mental health and addiction being separate from acute and primary care, he said.

“It's going to make management of the healthcare system more unwieldy,” he said, “and services will be duplicated all over the place.

“(AHS) could have been tweaked to be more efficient, and to include these other areas in a better way.” 

The Province said that an “integration council” will be formed to ensure system alignment, and Alberta Health will negotiate standard offers for goods and services to achieve economies of scale, allowing the new system to benefit from centralization when appropriate. 

“I don't know that this is going to actually cut down on bureaucracy as it stands,” McKibbin said. 

The United Nurses of Alberta said in a statement that it sees nothing in the government's announcement that will address nurse staffing shortages. 

Friends of Medicare said the plan fails to address concerns about health care access, capacity or staffing. 

McKibbin had similar concerns about how the reorganization would affect staffing levels. 

“As it stands right now, just reorganizing it won't change staffing levels and it won't change access, as I see it currently.” 

When the announcement was made, the Province said the structure of the health care system limits its ability to provide system-wide oversight, set priorities or seek accountability. 

Premier Danielle Smith has been vocal about wanting to dismantle AHS for a long time, McKibbin said. 

“I think this is her way of making AHS smaller and less powerful,” he said. “It’s fine if it makes it better, but I don't see how it's going to make healthcare better for the average person in Alberta.” 

Robert Korotyszyn

About the Author: Robert Korotyszyn

Robert Korotyszyn covers Okotoks and Foothills County news for and the Western Wheel newspaper. For story tips contact [email protected]
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