Health Co-op answers questions on provincial input
Thursday, Aug 24, 2017 06:00 am
Dr. Tom Feasby, CEO of the Airdrie and Area Health Benefits Co-operative (AAHBC), appeared before Airdrie city council Aug. 21 to provide an update on the organization’s progress and answer questions regarding buy in from the provincial government.
“Since we last reported to council, the AAHBC has made tremendous progress on a number of fronts,” he said. “We formed a partnership committee comprised of 12 people, all Airdrie citizens with representatives in addition from Alberta Health (AH), Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the Highland Primary Care Network (HPCN) of family physicians.”
Feasby said a community engagement process with stakeholders – including seniors’ groups, schools, healthcare providers, the business community and churches, as well as residents, would begin Aug. 24 and be completed by December. This process would help the AAHBC define how it would operate and what kinds of things it should include.
“We want to find out what services exist currently, what gaps there are, what programs might ultimately need to be created to address…in our quest to become Canada’s healthiest community,” he said. “We continue to work with experts in seeking international best practice and the public consultation process will help the community eventually design a health park.”
The AAHBC has begun work on a system that would allow residents to track and have access to their own health information, according to Feasby. A physician planning committee has been formed involving approximately 25 local physicians. The AAHBC’s website went live in June at airdriehealth.ca
The AAHBC – formally incorporated as a co-operative in Alberta in December 2016 – will provide primary and proactive healthcare and emergent/urgent care to residents of Airdrie and area.
The City of Airdrie provided a total of $450,000 to the AAHBC in start-up funds in 2016 and 2017, which the AAHBC will pay back over time. A $145,000 grant from The Calgary Foundation to fund the public engagement process was awarded in July and the AAHBC has also raised $200,000 through private fundraising.
According to Feasby, the AAHBC has met a number of times – including the week of Aug. 14 – with senior officials from AH, including the Deputy Minister of Health, the chief of staff, the executive director of strategic health policy and representatives from Alberta Justice and Legislative Services.
“Our intent was to re-confirm the ministry’s support for our work and future plans. We confirmed our common understanding that our plans for future service offerings are compliant with various legislations and, most importantly, the Canada Health Act,” Feasby said. “These officials continue to support our efforts. Through our ongoing dialogue with the provincial government, though, it has become clear the grant agreement between the co-op and the city was improperly stated.”
According to Feasby, written approval from the government for the co-op’s operating model and mandate from the Minister of Justice is not something the ministry can provide.
“Alberta Justice is actually not even involved in these decisions…so we will not be receiving a letter of approval from them,” he said. “In hindsight, it’s something the province simply cannot provide because of the legislative agreement between the province, AH and AHS.”
Feasby said the co-op was asking council to delete a section of the grant agreement that reads: “if council feels the work to date satisfies the council’s original desire to ensure concrete progress has been made on the initiative.”
Coun. Ron Chapman asked what department of the provincial government could approve the AAHBC’s mandate.
“There is no mechanism for formal approval of the process we’re undertaking. When we ultimately come up with a finished product…then we will be requiring approval from AHS, for instance, through partnership agreements with them,” Feasby said. “The provincial government itself is not in a position to provide formal approval.”
Despite some reticence on behalf of a number of members of council, a motion to remove the section from the grant agreement between the AAHBC and the city requiring provincial approval was unanimously approved.