AHS executive takes home $738,000 in severance pay
Friends of Medicare criticize 'insult to Alberta's health care workers and taxpayers'
When his position with Alberta Health Services was eliminated, the former CEO of Aspen Regional Health took home $738,000 in severance pay, sparking a wave of criticism from opposition parties and groups such as Friends of Medicare.
Andrew Will served as the CEO for Aspen Regional Health, which covered Westlock, St. Paul and Bonnyville, among other communities, before Aspen was subsumed into the province-wide health authority, AHS.
Last week, Friends of Medicare organization released details about what it called AHS’s “sweetheart deal” for Will, an executive vice president who left AHS in February to take an equivalent job in Saskatchewan. His payment also included $99,000 in “at-risk” pay for an 18-month period, according to Friends of Medicare.
“This is yet another insult to Alberta's health care workers and taxpayers, and we want the Auditor General to review it," Friends of Medicare’s executive director Sandra Azocar stated in a release, noting that Will left to take an equivalent job in Saskatchewan.
Terry O’Donovan, with communications for AHS north zone, said Will was paid the severance in accordance with his contract with Aspen, adding, “AHS inherited that contract upon the creation of AHS.” Will had worked for Aspen and then AHS since 2006, but his position was eliminated when the AHS senior executive team was restructured and downsized, O’Dononvan said.
Azocar didn’t accept explanations of a previous contract, noting, “AHS and the Government constantly say, ‘Our hands are tied, it's in the contract’ - but this giveaway was in the contract only because AHS put it there.”
Wildrose MLA Shayne Saskiw criticized “outrageous” severances for AHS executives, saying taxpayer dollars should be used for key priorities. “It should not be spent to pad the wallets of select few executives.”
News of Will’s severance package came in the wake of public outrage over AHS executive expenses; AHS Chief Financial Officer Allaudin Merali lost his job this summer after news surfaced that he spent almost $350,000 of taxpayers’ money in expenses from 2005 to 2008, including for items such as repairs to his Mercedes Benz and $30/hour butlers.
In response to the media flurry around executive expenses, AHS board chair Stephen Lockwood stated that internal and external audits would be done to assess Merali’s and executives’ expenses between 2005 to 2008 to assess if those expenses were within policy.
However, Lockwood stated that AHS is not contemplating hiring auditors to expand or extend the review into other former regions or other health entities, citing rising costs. For instance, he estimated that, to conduct an external audit and for the few weeks of responding to Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPP) requests, costs have reached $200,000 and climbing, which would be equivalent to 14 hip surgeries. “The final cost will exceed that amount and those dollars will be lost to health care forever,” he stated in the release.
Saskiw criticized this comparison, stating, “What Lockwood fails to mention are the millions of dollars lost to health care, forever, due to the PC legacy of waste and mismanagement that has left Albertans struggling to receive basic healthcare services. The money is there. It’s being spent in the wrong places.” Saskiw charged that bonuses and severances that Alberta Health Services have handed out to executives over the past three years could pay for around 1,810 knee or hip surgeries, or 725 new senior care support workers for home care, long term care or assisted living.
“Of course, taxpayer dollars should be used on the front lines and key priorities such as hip and knee replacements, long term care and other services that Albertans deserve,” he said.
Saskiw said contracts should be drafted in a way so that “these types of extreme severances aren’t provided” and that severance packages are more acceptable to Albertans. The Wildrose’s position is that there should be a freeze on all bonuses until the budget is balanced, while any future bonuses for AHS executives should be performance-based. Saskiw also argued that severance and bonus packages in AHS executive contracts’ details should be made public, “so Albertans can see themselves if it’s reasonable.”
In order to post comments on our web site, you must validate your email address. An email was sent to you when you registered that included an activation link. If you have not yet done so, please click on the link to activate your account.
If you did not receive your activation email, please click here to have it resent.