Thursday, January 29, 2009

Australian economist is new head of Alberta health superboard.

After the CBC article there is another from the CP.

Duckett has a great deal of experience and has written extensively about health care and health care reform. Although he is not an avid privatiser as these articles point out, nevertheless he does see a role for private clinics. Although Duckett is very much for public funding of medical services he could very well support more private delivery---always in the name of efficiency of course. His salary seems to be ample enough to have lured him away from Australia! Half a million a year is not too stingy I should think but then I suppose if he worked in a private corporation with a similar budget he might earn more!

Australian economist is new head of Alberta health 'superboard'
Last Updated: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 2:53 PM ET
CBC News
Stephen Duckett will be the president and CEO of Alberta Health Services starting March 23. (CBC)
A senior Australian health official has been appointed the new president and CEO of Alberta Health Services, the province announced Wednesday.
Stephen Duckett is currently chief executive of the Centre for Healthcare Improvement for Queensland Health in Brisbane, Australia, where there's a large mix of publicly and privately delivered services in the health-care system.
Duckett, an economist, was quick to say Wednesday that doesn't mean he will be making radical changes to Alberta health care.
A system that works
"We've got a good system. We've got a system that works across the whole province," he said at a news conference in Edmonton.
"I'm not coming in with this huge privatization agenda. The board didn't say, 'Look, you know, that's your job.' ...
"The only discussions I've had ... are about better service delivery, more efficient service delivery, better quality of care, better access, you know, the things that I think Albertans want."
Duckett won the job from among more than 140 applicants worldwide. He starts with Alberta Health Services on March 23.
Duckett takes over from interim chief executive Charlotte Robb, who had helmed the so-called health superboard on a temporary basis since it was created last year.
Alberta Health Services was created last spring when the province decided to disband the nine regional health authorities.
The board also incorporated the Alberta Cancer Board, the Mental Health Board and the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission (AADAC).
Duckett will be paid a base salary of $575,000 with a bonus of up to 25 per cent for performance, based on "objective and quantifiable results," a government news release said.
Duckett said his reasons for wanting to move to Edmonton were both professional and personal.
His family was looking to move after three years in Brisbane, and his wife has a sister who lives in Edmonton, he said.


Aussie chosen to run Alberta health care wants to create a model for all Canada
13 hours ago
EDMONTON — Alberta has gone half way around the world to Australia to find a new senior executive to help reshape health care in the province.
Dr. Stephen Duckett is already talking about how he hopes to create a health-care model that will inspire other provinces looking to control rapid growth in spending.
Duckett, who takes over in March as CEO of Alberta's new health superboard, is also laying to rest any fears that he'll broaden private health-care delivery.
"Public funding of health services is a core principle of medicare and as far as I'm concerned is not on the agenda," he told a news conference Wednesday.
Groups including Friends of Medicare were skeptical when they heard that the new CEO was recruited from Australia, where roughly 40 per cent of hospital admissions are to private facilities.
However, Duckett is on the record as opposing a move to more private health care in Canada.
In a 2005 article he wrote for the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Duckett spoke against Canada adopting the hybrid system in Australia, where a state-run public health-care system operates in tandem with private medicine.
"The dual system has deleterious implications for the equity and efficiency of the health-care system," he wrote. "Similar ill effects would occur if Canada were to follow the Australian path of health-care organization."
Duckett noted in his article that with surgeons often working in both the public and private system, patients end up waiting longer for procedures in public hospitals.
"I'm not coming into this job saying I'm going to privatize everything in sight,"' he said. "What I am on about is making sure the services are efficient and provide the best deal for the people of Alberta."
David Eggen of Friends of Medicare says he's surprised that the province would bring in a "hired gun" from outside of Canada.
"The Australian health system is a mess, quite frankly," Eggen said in an interview. "The mixing of private and public delivery hasn't worked there very well at all."
Alberta is facing serious problems with long waiting times for surgery, a shortage of family doctors and other health professionals, Eggen added.
"They've thrown lots of money at the public system, but it's been inefficiently utilized," he said.
All provinces are struggling to control health-care costs, but the situation in Alberta has become critical in recent months with the health super board declaring a $1.3 billion deficit.
Health Minister Ron Liepert recently released a strategy aimed at curbing operating costs by changing the role of under-utilized rural hospitals to take pressure off hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary.
The strategy will also see a larger portion of drug costs paid by patients and a reshaping of long-term care with an emphasis on keeping seniors in their homes longer.
NDP health critic Rachel Notley says Liepert should be more specific about his next round of reforms.
"This piecemeal, cloak-and-dagger approach that they're taking right now is simply not good enough," she said.
Duckett says it's too early to talk specifically about what changes he might consider for Alberta's $13 billion a year health system.
But he spoke at length about what has worked in his homeland, where he's currently the chief executive for the Queensland Centre of Healthcare Improvement.
Scheduling surgeries on weekends and having incentives for hospitals to reduce waiting times has worked well in Australia, and so has using private clinics, said Duckett.
"We actually starting doing some contracting with the private sector in somewhat similar ways to what I think you're doing already in Calgary," he said. "To do some of this elective surgery, to get some of these long-wait people off the waiting list."
Ken Hughes, chairman of the super board, says Duckett was chosen from dozens of applicants from a short list that included people from New Zealand, Europe and the U.S. But he says the Aussie impressed him as the best choice.
"The Australian health-care system was originally modeled on the Canadian system," said Hughes. "And I think people will look at his experience as having tremendous application in Alberta and in Canada."

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