The province announced late Wednesday afternoon that Alberta Health Services CEO and president Stephen Duckett has been relieved of his contractual duties.
“The board today has made a decision that Dr. Duckett will no longer serve as president and chief executive officer of Alberta Health Services,” said AHS board chair Ken Hughes.
The news comes just days after Duckett was criticized for refusing to speak to media as he left a downtown government building, telling reporters, “I'm eating my cookie.”
The incident was caught on tape and subsequently posted online where it has been viewed more than 140,000 times.
“His ability to carry on and conduct the role of CEO was compromised by current circumstances, one element of which was that incident,” Hughes said, adding that there was “that background noise of criticism in the community.”
Hughes said Dr. Chris Eagle, executive vice president of quality and service improvement for AHS has been named CEO for the time being and that a permanent CEO will be found within a “reasonable amount of time.”
“The board would like to thank Dr. Duckett for his dedication to improving Alberta's health system during a very challenging time of transition for Alberta Health Services. His determination to create a strong foundation for Alberta Health Services will serve Albertans for many years to come,” Hughes told reporters.
Hughes said Duckett had been “released from his contractual obligations” but would not say that he had been fired.
“We have jointly agreed that it is time to move forward. It is clear that we need to focus on the task at hand, which is to implement as quickly as possible the initiatives made possible by the five-year funding commitment from the province of Alberta,” Hughes said.
He said at least one member of the Alberta Health Services board, Gord Bontje from Red Deer, said he intended to resign from the board and that several more resignations were expected in protest of Duckett's removal.
He said the province will now focus on adding more continuing care beds, reducing emergency room wait times and adding new capacity.