The interim chair of Alberta's new health super board shrugged off suggestions Friday the merger is a step towards privatizing health care, just moments before the first meeting of the new board in Red Deer.

The board replaces the nine regional bodies that were dissolved when Health Minister Ron Liepert announced the merger on May 16.

"We work within the five principals of the Canada Health Act," chair Ken Hughes said. "Nothing about this circumstance changes that. We're committed to a publicly funded, publicly delivered health care system."

The suggestions of a move towards private health care came after Health Minister Ron Liepert appointed Charlotte Robb, the former head of a major medical laboratory testing company, as CEO of the new health authority.

The health minster previously said the consolidation was an attempt to minimize the costs of the $13-billion-a-year system and lesson the large administrative costs associated with the nine boards.

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees was also present at the meeting.

Erez Raz, vice-president of AUPE, said he hopes the board and union can move forward to improve the quality of the health care system.

"We're hoping to hear that we're going to get some money out of this, and that our members are going to be respected in the workplace," he said. "We're constantly working short staffed, and we're overworked."

CTV Edmonton will have more on today's health board meetings in Red Deer throughout the day. Check back to for updates.