Top doctor rejects health minister's claims about job departures
Published Tuesday, June 10, 2008 5:58PM MDT
One Alberta's top doctors is contradicting Health Minister Ron Liepert's claims about her controversial departure from her job.
Dr. Ameet Singh, an infectious disease medical consultant, is one of three senior public health doctors whose contract with the province is expiring at the end of August.
Dr. Karen Grimsrud, acting provincial health officer and Dr. Gloria Keays, deputy provincial health officer, are also not returning to their positions in the fall.
Health Minister Ron Liepert confirmed Tuesday that the three are leaving for better-paying opportunities elsewhere.
"All I'm saying is that there were other opportunities for these particular doctors they chose to pursue them just like any other professional," he said.
Yet Dr. Singh said she has not been offered any other job and has no other offers on the table.
"That is not the case," she said. "Maybe he's not aware of the fact. It's not all about money. It's a combination of things."
Health policy expert John Church said the departures indicate a struggle between the top doctors and politicians over the direction of health care.
"It points to the continuing lack of a good relationship between the politicians and the department of health," he said.
The job vacancies come just three weeks after Liepert announced he was phasing out Alberta's nine regional health boards in favour of one superboard.
He also moved to centralize all ambulance service under the new all-encompassing entity.
Church said he believes there may have been some disagreement over how health care is being managed in the province.
"The timing just is not very good at all," he said.
The province said the recent shake up of the health care system played no role in their failure to reach a contract agreement with the three doctors.
"It had nothing to do with it, nothing to do with it," Liepert said.
Liberal health critic Dr. David Swann, a former medical health officer, told the Canadian Press replacements will be hard to find and that creates a serious void in public health protection.
"The people of Alberta are the ones that are going to suffer, especially if we have an infectious disease outbreak,'' said Swann.
"Since we haven't been able to fill the provincial health officer position in the last year, it raises serious questions about whether we can fill any of the other positions now.''
Neither of the other doctors could be reached for comment.
With files from Scott Roberts