Skip to content

Minister gave 'verbal direction' on Duckett

Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky gave the health superboard “verbal direction” regarding the fate of former Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett, according to statements he made during a press conference Wednesday night.

Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky gave the health superboard “verbal direction” regarding the fate of former Alberta Health Services CEO Stephen Duckett, according to statements he made during a press conference Wednesday night.

Duckett was relieved of his contractual duties on Wednesday, just days after he was criticized for refusing to speak to the media as he left a downtown government building, telling reporters, “I’m eating a cookie.”

The incident was caught on tape and subsequently posted online where it has been viewed nearly 200,000 times.

Zwozdesky said he found it necessary to speak with Alberta Health Services (AHS) chair Ken Hughes and to offer “verbal directions” to him and the rest of the board about their decision regarding Duckett.

“Those directions were to carefully consider and evaluate recent comments made by the CEO and perhaps other factors that they might be aware of and to determine if, in the current climate, the ability of the CEO to perform his duties was compromised in any way,” Zwozdesky said Wednesday.

“As I’ve said before, I personally found the comments inappropriate and they began to stand in the way of our need to move forward with the things that Albertans really want done,” he said.

During a press conference hours earlier, Hughes said Duckett’s ability to carry on and conduct the role of CEO was compromised by current circumstances, one element of which included the cookie incident.

Hughes said there was “that background noise of criticism in the community,” stemming from the cookie incident.

He said Duckett had been “released from his contractual obligations” but stopped short of saying 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.

Zwozdesky said there were other factors that the board considered in making a decision regarding Duckett.

“The board chair indicated that the comments were among a couple of elements they considered, I do not know what those other elements are,” he told reporters.

Dr. Chris Eagle, executive vice president of Quality and Service Improvement for AHS has been named CEO for the interim. Hughes said 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.

As of press time, three members of the AHS board had resigned in protest of Duckett’s firing.

In a statement issued on Thursday, AHS said it was focusing on three key initiatives: opening more continuing care beds, reducing emergency department wait times and adding new capacity.

The province has committed to opening more than 1,300 continuing care beds in Alberta this fiscal year.