Because health care makes up such an enormous part of government spending, the provision of health services and health care management is an ongoing public issue.
One of the biggest changes in local health care occurred 20 years ago, in 1994-1995, with the creation of the David Thompson Regional Health Authority.
Originally, hospital care in Red Deer was provided at the Red Deer Memorial Hospital which was built in 1904 and run by a non-profit public corporation.
The board of directors was selected by the shareholders/members of that non-profit group.
Unfortunately, that organization was continuously in financial difficulty. In 1918, the Memorial Hospital Board finally dissolved into bankruptcy.
It was replaced by a three-person hospital commission appointed by Red Deer City council.
The economic depression after the First World War brought the situation to a crisis again. The City cut back on its annual grants.
The Hospital became bankrupt again. The provincial government stepped in. Beds were closed. Staff were laid off. Salaries were slashed by 40%.
The provincial government had little interest in directly running hospitals. Hence, a proposal was made to create a tax-supported municipal hospital district, encompassing the City of Red Deer and surrounding rural municipalities.
However, the rural authorities balked at taking on any new financial responsibilities. Hence, in April 1923, the Red Deer Municipal Hospital District #315 was created, encompassing only the City of Red Deer. It was Alberta’s first urban hospital district. The district’s trustees were elected by the voters of Red Deer.
After the Second World War, the hospital board felt the existing arrangement was no longer sustainable.
The City was experiencing a huge burst of growth. A very large number of patients came from outside the City limits. Hence, in 1949, the hospital district was expanded to include some rural areas.
In 1962, the provincial government established the Red Deer Auxiliary Hospital District #14, with a five-person appointed board. The Dr. Richard Parsons Auxiliary Hospital was subsequently constructed.
The Auxiliary board later constructed the Valley Park Manor nursing home in 1970 and then purchased the Red Deer and West Park nursing homes from their private operators.
In 1976, in order to facilitate the construction of the Red Deer Regional Hospital, the existing hospital board and the one for the Auxiliary and nursing homes were merged. Responsibility for a number of regional health services were added to the new board’s duties.
In 1994, the Red Deer Regional Hospital Board, and several other Central Alberta hospital and health care boards, were replaced by the new David Thompson Health Authority, one of 17 across the province. All the health authority boards were appointed by the provincial government.
In 2001, some of the DTHR trustees became elected, while the provincial government continued to appoint the others. In 2004, the number of regional authorities was slashed to nine.
Once again, all of the trustees were appointed by the provincial government.
In May 2008, the provincial government decided to suddenly abolish all of the regional health authorities to create one province-wide organization called Alberta Health Services. A new ‘super board’ was created with the chair and all of the members being appointed by the government.
In June 2013, the Minister of Health dismissed the AHS board and replaced it with an official administrator. The people who have been appointed as the AHS chief executive officer and president have changed since then, but there is still only one person in charge, instead of a board.