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Health Care Overhaul: AHS to be laser focused on Acute Care and Continuing Care outcomes


22 minute read

Refocusing on patient-centred care

A refocused health care system will improve health outcomes for Albertans and empower health care workers to deliver quality care across the province.

Alberta’s front-line health workers provide exceptional care to patients and families, and Alberta’s government is committed to supporting their work by providing a high-functioning health care system. Alberta’s government has been working to address wait times and health care service disruptions, but challenges still exist in the system, including accessing community care like family doctors and local health services. The current health care system’s structure limits the government’s ability to provide system-wide oversight, set system priorities, and to require accountability for those priorities on behalf of Albertans.

To overcome current challenges and deliver the right care for Albertans at the right time, Alberta is refocusing the health care system. These changes will focus on the priority sectors of primary care, acute care, continuing care and mental health and addiction to ensure Albertans receive the best care within a single, fully integrated, high-functioning system.

These changes will improve front-line service delivery, and front-line jobs will be protected during this transition. Albertans will continue to access health care services where they regularly receive their care during the system’s transition period and beyond.

“Albertans deserve access to the health care they need, when and where they need it. Health care workers move mountains for their patients every day. For too many years, Alberta’s health care system has been too complex and uncoordinated, leading to unacceptable wait times and poorer health outcomes for Albertans. It’s time to change that. It’s time to put Albertans first in every health care decision and give our front-line experts the right space to properly care for Albertans. This is why we are refocusing the health system to provide better care for generations of Albertans to come.”

Danielle Smith, Premier

“We are at a critical juncture when it comes to health care in Alberta. We need to refocus how the system is structured and create a path forward that will get us the outcomes Albertans deserve. This work will take time and it will not be easy. We will lean on the world-class talent and expertise that exists in our health care system every step of the way. I ask health care workers to join us on this important journey so they can work in a better system – for them and for their patients.”

Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Health

“Minister LaGrange has acknowledged that our health care system needs urgent reform. This work will only succeed with the involvement and leadership of physicians. The AMA looks forward to meaningful consultation and collaboration as these reforms are further elaborated.”

Dr. Paul Parks, president, Alberta Medical Association 
Alberta’s government will establish advisory boards to provide initial direction and support for the transition into the reorganized provincial system. The four provincial organizations dedicated to each sector will be in place by fall 2024.

A streamlined AHS role

Alberta Health Services (AHS) will continue to have a strong role as part of the refocused system. Under the new structure, AHS’ primary focus will be acute care and continuing care. Other AHS delivery functions will move to be accountable to the new organizations.

Acute care

The acute care provincial organization will oversee the delivery of hospital care, urgent care centres, cancer care, clinical operations, surgeries and emergency medical services. The organization will work directly with acute care providers including Alberta Health Services, Covenant Health and chartered surgical facilities to speed up access to quality care and make sure the patient’s journey through the acute care system is efficient and effective across the province. Key outcomes for the new organization include:

  • Shorter wait times for emergency departments and surgeries.
  • Lowering emergency medical services response time.
  • Higher quality care across the province and enhancing access to care in rural areas.

“I have been advocating for changes to ensure our health care system is sustainable and serves the current and future needs of Albertans, particularly those in the City of Grande Prairie and the surrounding region. I am encouraged by the elements within the plan, and I am extremely optimistic it will produce the outcomes we are looking for and that our residents need.”

Jackie Clayton, mayor, City of Grande Prairie

“The Alberta Professional Fire Fighters & Paramedics Association believes in order to achieve improved ambulance response times and a community-focused pre-hospital care system that prioritizes the well-being of its practitioners, a structural change to the provision of health is in order.”

Elliott Davis, vice-president, Alberta Professional Fire Fighters & Paramedics Association

Primary care

The new provincial primary care organization will coordinate primary health care services and provide transparent provincial oversight. Primary health care includes all the services Albertans access to support their day-to-day health needs through every stage of life. That includes visits with a family doctor or a nurse practitioner, visits to Primary Care Networks, consultation with a specialist, preventative care and chronic disease management.

Establishing a primary care governance structure was one of the recommendations from the Modernizing Alberta’s Primary Health Care System (MAPS) report, which was released on Oct. 18.

The primary care organization will focus on achieving key outcomes, including:

  • Ensuring every Albertan will be attached to a family physician or a nurse practitioner.
  • Providing timely access to high-quality primary care services, including after-hours, no matter where they live.
  • Supporting an integrated team of health professionals to provide comprehensive primary care, including family physicians, nurse practitioners and pharmacists, that has appropriate access to patient health information.

“The Nurse Practitioner Association of Alberta supports the decision by the minister and Alberta Health to restructure health care oversight in the province. The health care system in Alberta is in crisis and new ideas and approaches are required to address current need and to support Albertans into the future. The proposed changes have the potential to position Alberta as a leader in primary care, continuing care, emergency, acute and surgical services and integrated mental health supports. These are bold enhancements that if done well will lead to improved access, improved health outcomes and improvements to the bottom line. We look forward to working with the government and stakeholders to ensure success.”

Susan Prendergast, president, Nurse Practitioners Association of Alberta

“The Alberta Paramedic Association supports the Minister’s refocusing of the current health model in Alberta. This re-visioning allows for opportunities to tackle current issues, and create system enhancements in the delivery of services for Albertan’s including those improvements linked directly to the profession of paramedics.

Len Stelmaschuk, president, Alberta Paramedic Association

Continuing care

The continuing care system provides Albertans with the health, personal care and accommodation services they need to support their independence and quality of life, including rehabilitative or restorative care. These services and supports may be provided in different settings, including individuals’ homes, continuing care homes, supportive living accommodations and adult day programs.

In alignment with the Facility-Based Continuing Care Review, the new continuing care provincial organization will provide provincial oversight, coordination, service delivery, home care and community care. This will renew focus on residents and create equitable, consistent and timely access to continuing care supports and services through a single, coordinated intake approach. All current contracted operators will continue to deliver services under contract with the new organization.

The new organization will continue the work to add more continuing care spaces, attract and retain health care workers, advance innovative solutions and support Albertans as they choose where and how they’d like to live. The new organization will focus on achieving:

  • Equitable, consistent and timely access to continuing care services?.
  • An increased number and geographic distribution of beds to meet the needs of Albertans.?
  • Improved team-based cross-sector care leveraging other health and social services.

“Albertans deserve and expect the best system of care that will support their independence and quality of life. By refocusing Alberta’s health care system on patient-centred care, Albertans will now receive the highest quality of care, including seniors, vulnerable Albertans and children and adults with developmental disabilities.”

Jason Nixon, Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services

“The Alberta Continuing Care Association applauds the recent health care reforms by the Alberta government and its commitment to advancing health care services for seniors. These reforms align with our mission of creating a sustainable and innovative continuing care sector. We’re eager to collaborate with Alberta Health, providing expertise, advocating best practices, and fostering innovation for seniors’ well-being.”

Feisal Keshavjee, chair, Alberta Continuing Care Association

Mental health and addiction

As part of the refocusing, Alberta’s Ministry of Mental Health and Addiction will begin to oversee the mental health and addiction system, including managing funding. To continue the delivery of public mental health and addiction services, Alberta’s government is establishing a new provincial mental health and addiction organization. This organization will be responsible for the delivery of services currently provided by AHS. It will continue to focus on recovery-oriented care for Albertans, delivering services that span prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery supports.

Oversight of the mental health and addiction system by the appropriate ministry will ensure Albertans are receiving high-quality recovery-oriented care in every corner of the province. This change will also allow for better coordination between services delivered by the public agency and the non-profit sector. Additionally, to support the ministry’s enhanced responsibilities, a new Centre of Recovery Excellence will be established to improve the quality of mental health and addiction service delivery in Alberta.

The mental health and addiction organization will focus on:

  • Supporting every Albertan struggling with the deadly disease of addiction and/or mental health challenges in their pursuit of recovery.
  • Ensuring Albertans can access a full continuum of recovery-oriented supports that help them improve their overall well-being and sustain recovery.
  • Improving mental health and addiction care for Albertans by further expanding access to treatment and recovery supports across Alberta.

“Our government is making sure Albertans have more access to mental health supports and addiction treatment services than ever before. The direction we are taking Alberta is caring for Albertans and supporting them in their pursuit of recovery.”

Dan Williams, Minister of Mental Health and Addiction

“These steps from Alberta’s government create an opportunity to build on the strong foundation of existing mental health and addiction services and the exemplary work of our staff and clinicians. I am excited to lead the transition toward a new provincial mental health and addiction organization to ensure delivery of the best recovery oriented clinical care anywhere in the country”.

Kerry Bales, chief program officer, Provincial Addiction & Mental Health and Correctional Health Services, Alberta Health Services 

“To see a government this focused on recovery brings so much hope to those working at Oxford House and the individuals in treatment. I’m proud to support the government in their work to strengthen addiction services around the province.”

Earl Thiessen, executive director, Oxford House Foundation

“We are excited with the government’s refocusing of the health care system. It will achieve better system coordination and delivery for service providers, more support for front-line workers and improved access to addiction and mental health supports.”

Lorette Garrick, CEO, George Spady Society

Covenant Health

Covenant Health will continue to offer services in the areas of acute care and continuing care in communities across Alberta. Under the new structure, Covenant Health will no longer be contracted and funded through agreements with AHS. It will transition to have direct relationships with the new organizations.

“Our health system has been under considerable stress and we’re optimistic about the new bold and balanced direction set by Alberta’s government. We welcome the commitment in this announcement to engaging with patients, health care providers and the community. We look forward to working with the Government of Alberta and all our partners to build on this new outcome-focused approach as we recommit all our energy to improving the health of Albertans.”

Patrick Dumelie, CEO, Covenant Health

Engaging the health workforce and Albertans

Alberta’s health care workers deserve to work within a structure that will support their success and prioritize their well-being. Alberta’s government will begin engaging with the health care workforce in a thoughtful and thorough manner. As the province moves towards implementing this new structure, understanding job obstacles and exploring opportunities to reduce red tape and implement other practical solutions will be critical to achieving success.

Engagement sessions with front-line workers, AHS staff, health care unions, health associations and a wide range of health partners are scheduled throughout November and more will be added into the new year.

Alberta’s government is also committed to engaging with Albertans and listening to input from patients, families and caregivers. More information about public engagements will be provided in the coming months. Engagement session dates will be regularly updated online.

“I am excited to see that the government is ensuring patient care is at the centre of the health system. As a practitioner, I work to provide the best possible care for my patients, and I am glad that we are moving towards a system that is structured around that.”

Dr. Les Scheelar, anesthesiologist

“The Alberta Association of Nurses is highly supportive of the bold steps the Government of Alberta is taking to refocus the health care system. These changes will help create better work environments for nurses and enable them to better provide care that meets the needs of Albertans.”

Kathy Howe, CEO, Alberta Association of Nurses

Local decision-making, accountability and integration

Front-line health care workers and regional partners have a direct line of sight on what needs to change to improve quality of care in their community. All four health system sectors will be mandated to empower local decision-making and work closely with new regional advisory councils. Alberta Health will restructure the 12 regional advisory councils that currently exist and create a new Indigenous advisory council to better represent community perspectives, bring forward local priorities and give input on how to improve the system.

The Ministry of Health will also realign its structure to better match with the new organizations, support the refocusing of the health care system and provide appropriate oversight. This includes ensuring each organization has its own reporting structure within Alberta Health.

In addition, the role of the Health Quality Council of Alberta will be expanded to support Alberta Health to set performance standards and performance indicators and to support audit and compliance functions. The council will also collect insights from patients throughout the transition toward achieving a high-performing health system.

A separate integration council will be formed immediately to ensure system alignment, identify efficiencies, remove barriers and make sure the system is delivering better health outcomes.

Finally, a procurement and system optimization secretariat within Alberta Health will negotiate standard offers for goods and services to drive efficiencies through economies of scale. This will allow the refocused system to continue to benefit from centralization of these services when appropriate.

“Across hundreds of hours of engagement with community leaders and health care providers in rural Alberta, I have repeatedly heard concerns with the health care system and the need for local perspectives in decision-making. I know this will be welcome news, and that the work being undertaken by the government of Alberta is going to lead to much-needed change in our system.”

Martin Long, parliamentary secretary for rural health

“We need to bring high-quality health care service back to rural Alberta. As a small-town Alberta mayor, I think this is a significant step in that direction, and we need to get started now.”

Kevin Ferguson, mayor, Town of Ponoka

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News release from the Edmonton Police Service (EPS)

The Edmonton Police Service (EPS) is assisting the RCMP with the investigation into a tragic incident that claimed the life of an innocent woman last night on 50 Street.

Yesterday, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, at approximately 9:40 p.m. various EPS resources were deployed to the area of 50 Street and 22 Avenue SW at the request of the RCMP. It was reported to police that RCMP attempted to conduct a traffic stop on a suspicious U-Haul in Beaumont, when the vehicle fled. The U-Haul subsequently travelled north on 50 Street into Edmonton, where it struck and killed a woman inspecting the exterior of her vehicle. Moments later the U-Haul came to rest just outside a gas station off of 22 Avenue and 50 Street.

After crashing the U-Haul, the male suspect then reportedly stole a Honda Civic that was parked outside the gas station with a child inside. Police did consider an Alert to the public at the time, though thankfully the child was located unharmed in the area of 66 Street and 25 Avenue minutes later. The suspect then fled the scene in the Honda Civic. The stolen vehicle has since been recovered outside of Edmonton.

The EPS and RCMP continue to actively seek the identity and whereabouts of the male suspect described as being approximately 5’11” who was last seen wearing a black hoodie with white text on the front, brown shorts and black shoes. CCTV photos of the suspect are included below.

“We are incredibly saddened to hear about the tragic death of the innocent woman who was killed on 50 Street,” says Det. Nigel Phillips with the EPS Investigative Response Team. “Our hearts are with her family and friends who will now have to carry on with this unfathomable loss.”

“We are doing everything we can to track down the suspect and we trust the public will help us identify and locate him as soon as possible.”

Assist to identify and locate: Male suspect running in area of 50 Street & 22 Avenue SW
While the RCMP is leading this investigation, the EPS is assisting and working collaboratively with its law enforcement partners.

Anyone with information about the suspect’s identity and/or their whereabouts is asked to contact the EPS immediately at 780-423-4567 or #377 from a mobile phone. Anonymous information can also be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online at

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Low emissions, Indigenous-owned Cascade Power Project to boost Alberta electrical grid reliability

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The Cascade Power Project. Photo courtesy Kinetcor

From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Will Gibson

New 900-megawatt natural gas-fired facility to supply more than eight per cent of Alberta’s power needs

Alberta’s electrical grid is about to get a boost in reliability from a major new natural gas-fired power plant owned in part by Indigenous communities.  

Next month operations are scheduled to start at the Cascade Power Project, which will have enough capacity to supply more than eight per cent of Alberta’s energy needs.  

It’s good news in a province where just over one month ago an emergency alert suddenly blared on cell phones and other electronic devices warning residents to immediately reduce electricity use to avoid outages.  

“Living in an energy-rich province, we sometimes take electricity for granted,” says Chana Martineau, CEO of the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation (AIOC) and member of the Frog Lake First Nation.  

“Given much of the province was dealing with -40C weather at the time, that alert was a vivid reminder of the importance of having a reliable electrical grid.” 

Cascade Power was the first project to receive funding through the AIOC, the provincial corporation established in 2020 to provide loan guarantees for Indigenous groups seeking partnerships in major development projects. 

So far, the AIOC has underwritten more than $500 million in support. This year it has $3 billion  available, up from $2 billion in 2023.  

In August 2020 it provided a $93 million loan guarantee to the Indigenous Communities Consortium — comprised of the Alexis Nakota Sioux NationEnoch Cree NationKehewin Cree NationOChiese First NationPaul First Nation, and Whitefish (Goodfish) Lake First Nation — to become equity owners. 

The 900-megawatt, $1.5-billion facility is scheduled to come online in March. 

“It’s personally gratifying for me to see how we moved from having Indigenous communities being seen as obstacles to partners in a generation,” says Martineau. 

The added capacity brought by Cascade is welcomed by the Alberta Electrical System Operator (AESO), which is responsible for the provinces electrical grid. =

“The AESO welcomes all new forms of generation into the Alberta marketplace, including renewables, thermal, storage, and others,” said Diane Kossman, a spokeswoman for the agency.  

“It is imperative that Alberta continue to have sufficient dispatchable generation to serve load during peak demand periods when other forms of generation are not able to contribute in a meaningful way.” 

The Cascade project also provides environmental benefits. It is a so-called “combined cycle” power facility, meaning it uses both a gas turbine and a steam turbine simultaneously to produce up to 50 per cent more electricity from the same amount of fuel than a traditional facility.  

Once complete, Cascade is expected to be the largest and most efficient combined cycle power plant in Alberta, producing 62 per cent less CO2 than a coal-fired power plant and 30 per cent less CO2 than a typical coal-to-gas conversion.  

“This project really is aligned with the goals of Indigenous communities on environmental performance,” says Martineau. 

The partnership behind the power plant includes Axium InfrastructureDIF Capital Partners  and Kineticor Resource Corp. along with the Indigenous Communities Consortium. 

The nations invested through a partnership with OPTrust, one of Canada’s largest pension funds.  

“Innovation is not just what we invest in, but it is also how we invest,” said James Davis, OPTrust’s chief investment officer. 

“The participation of six First Nations in the Cascade Power Project is a prime example of what is possible when investors, the government and local communities work together.” 

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