The former head of Alberta Health Services says there are several reasons why Alberta consistently has the highest health costs and worst outcomes in Canada: provincial wealth, politics and privatization.
Stephen Duckett, speaking September 17 in Toronto at Longwood’s Breakfast With The Chiefs, was President and CEO of Alberta Health Services from 2009-10.
An Australian economist who still lives in Alberta, Duckett says that he inherited a situation where cataracts were outsourced in Calgary and Edmonton. The “unusual” method of tendering these contracts encouraged providers to bid high. Instead of giving contracts to the low bidder, Alberta Health Services took all the bids, set a uniform price by averaging the costs in the tenders, then made “everyone a winner” by contracting the service to all of the submitting companies.
When the private Health Resource Centre (HRC) was facing bankruptcy, Duckett says he was encouraged to find a way to help them out of their financial troubles. When he looked at the cost of publicly funded procedures performed by the bankrupt HRC, he realized that public hospitals were doing the same orthopaedic work for considerably less. For a hip arthroplasty, for example, the cost was $486 more per procedure at the private provider, $1,814 more for a foot and ankle procedure.
Similarly, Duckett was in office when Calgary workers took the unprecedented step of mounting a class action lawsuit against a Telus subsidiary which had been given a contract to do payroll for the former Calgary Health Region. The employees claimed to have been underpaid, found mistakes on their T-4 slips, and problems in vacation calculation.