Severance costing Alberta doctors and nurses
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 19, 2012 06:00 am
To many Albertans, Stephen Lockwood’s comments last week about actions Alberta Health Services will take under his direction were just words, empty promises like so many others heard from the mouths of politicians.
But his words were stronger than those of politicians. His words sounded more like those of a businessman, of a boss instructing his employees on how his business would be run … or else. As the new AHS chair, that Lockwood took the almost unprecedented step to apologize for the mismanagement of predecessor organizations of the AHS was a brave move, one that Albertans hope will set the stage for a new era of health-care services in the provinces and end the years of abuses by those charged with running the province’s multi-billion-dollar system.
Albertans are sick and tired of reading about the abuses and the payouts that have cost the health-care system millions of dollars in recent years. To see one of the major problems in the system one has only to search two names: Sheila Weatherill and Allaudin Merali.
Merali left last month as chief financial officer of Alberta’s superboard when details were released about his lavish expenses – $346,208 between 2005 and 2008 with Capital Health – and Weatherill, the board member who signed off on those expenses, resigned a day later.
By then, of course, the damage had been done.
Between those two employees, and another AHS official, Andrew Will, they have cost Albertans more than $8 million in wasted health-care dollars the last four years.
When the provincial government disbanded the various regional boards in the province in favour of a superboard, Weatherill, then CEO of Capital Health, received $1.5 million in severance pay and a $2.6-million retirement package (about $26,000 a month until 2018). Merali received $1.027 million in severance and a $1.6-million retirement package ($13,303 monthly to 2018).
Somehow, both got rehired to the superboard, which was absolutely inexcusable in the case of Merali, who was hired in May (at an annual salary of $425,000) despite being under a cloud of controversy over questionable use of public dollars in Ontario.
So now, according to Merali’s contract, Albertans get to pay him a one-year severance of $425,000. The time to end these outrageous severance packages is long overdue in Alberta.
Fortunately Weatherill gets no severance this time around. Or so we hope.
Also last week it was revealed that Will, a former CEO of Aspen Regional Health and a board member of AHS for 18 months, received a $738,000 package in February when he left Alberta to take a similar job in Saskatchewan.
Add it all up and it totals about $8.3 million.
Wonder just what those dollars would have meant to the health-care system? A five-year registered nurse earns an average salary of about $75,000 a year. Family doctors earn an average of about $159,000.
So those packages to Weatherill, Merali and Will, and Merali’s expenses could have paid the salaries of 11 five-year registered nurses or five new doctors for 10 years.
Think of the improvement that could have made to the health services of Alberta.
So now we have the AHS and the government saying expense reports will be posted online monthly for all to see – an attempt at accountability and transparency. And it all sounds good. But as American businessman Harold Geneen, said: “It is an immutable law in business that words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises, but only performance is reality.”