Top News

Entire Health P.E.I. board of directors resigns over concern with government direction

Alex MacBeath resigned Tuesday as chairman of Health P.E.I.’s board of directors with the entire board following suit. He fears recent amendments tabled to the nine-year-old Health Services Act may create a lack of clarity while hampering the board’s ability to fulfill its fiduciary, operational and strategic responsibilities.
Alex MacBeath resigned Tuesday as chairman of Health P.E.I.’s board of directors with the entire board following suit. He fears recent amendments tabled to the nine-year-old Health Services Act may create a lack of clarity while hampering the board’s ability to fulfill its fiduciary, operational and strategic responsibilities. - Jim Day

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — Alex MacBeath says he resigned as chairman of Health P.E.I.’s board of directors over concerns with a new governance model for the provincial health authority announced late last week.

MacBeath fears recent amendments tabled to the nine-year-old Health Services Act may create a lack of clarity while hampering the board’s ability to fulfill its fiduciary, operational and strategic responsibilities.

"It’s a dramatic shift," says MacBeath. "I think there is a risk that this does not allow us to move forward in the way that we should and want to move forward ... whether it’s a backwards step, I will answer that in a year or two."

All board directors, including MacBeath, handed in a collective letter of resignation Tuesday, leaving the province looking to temporarily plug the hole with a trustee.

MacBeath says the amendments are a step in the wrong direction, putting politics front and centre in the health decision-making process.

"The amendments remove important checks and balances on the (health and wellness) minister," he says. "Without them, there are greater opportunities for politics to influence decision-making in the health care system. For example, the minister can now choose a CEO that will execute the minister’s exclusive vision."

He adds Health P.E.I.’s chief executive officer may receive conflicting direction from the board of directors and the minister.

MacBeath says the board tried to work collaboratively with Health and Wellness Minister Robert Mitchell since he took on the weighty health portfolio in January.

However, he says key board proposals, including the recommendation of a well-qualified CEO and the development of a business plan with measurable targets to achieve fiscal balance, were "categorically rejected" by Mitchell.

"The minister believes he knows what is best for the Island’s health care system and has paved the way for no one to challenge his beliefs and decisions," says MacBeath. "I think there are always changes that can be made. Systems and structures and all that evolve. I think there was always the opportunity for it to evolve. I’m not sure that this (shift) was in the best interest of health care in the Island."

“The minister believes he knows what is best for the Island’s health care system and has paved the way for no one to challenge his beliefs and decisions ... I think there are always changes that can be made. Systems and structures and all that evolve. I think there was always the opportunity for it to evolve. I’m not sure that this (shift) was in the best interest of health care in the Island.’’
– Alex MacBeath

Mitchell lauds the board’s work and laments their decision to resign.

"It is unfortunate and I am disappointed the board decided to go this route," he told The Guardian.

He expects a trustee to be appointed soon to fulfill the duties of the board until a new board is established.

Mitchell says the province will employ Engage P.E.I. to seek out individuals with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to fulfill the responsibilities of the Health P.E.I. Board.

The minister told The Guardian a new board will need to develop a work plan and look to heavily engage the community.

Health P.E.I. says the amendments are designed to bring P.E.I. more in line with similar legislation in other Canadian provinces.

"We’re not designing a new wheel," adds Mitchell. "We’re just copying what other jurisdictions do."

The changes also aim to increase accountability within the health system, create stronger linkages to the community and clearly define roles and responsibility for both the ministry and the health authority.

MacBeath says the board was comprised of "incredibly well-qualified and talented" directors but he is confident other Islanders will "step up to the plate" to replace them.

He says Health P.E.I., which was created as a Crown corporation nine years ago, has done a "phenomenal job" in creating a one-Island health system, taking away the series of independent health authorities across the Island.

He adds Health P.E.I., which is responsible for the delivery of publicly funded health services in Prince Edward Island under a $710-million budget, is an incredibly complex system that includes operating hospitals, health centres, public long-term care nursing facilities and community-based programs and services.

"You have 5,000 professionals delivering a range of services, some on an urgent basis, and very complex medical needs delivered in a variety of facilities in a variety of different settings and that just makes it complex," said MacBeath. 

"What is as important to Islanders being able to access quality services today," he adds, "is having a system with a capacity for long-term sustainability. And that is the primary responsibility of any board. So, let’s make sure we don’t lose sight in dealing with the short-term that we don’t do anything to damage the long-term capacity for sustainability."

Twitter.com/GuardianJimDay

The board of Health PEI: back row (from left): John Horrelt, Blaine MacPherson, Dr. George Saunders, Dr. Dagny Dryer, Kay Lewis, Jim Revell. Front row: Sally Lockhart, Phyllis Horne (chair), Alex MacBeath (vice-chair), Sandra Gaudet. Missing: Dr. Rosemary Herbert
The board of Health PEI: back row (from left): John Horrelt, Blaine MacPherson, Dr. George Saunders, Dr. Dagny Dryer, Kay Lewis, Jim Revell. Front row: Sally Lockhart, Phyllis Horne (chair), Alex MacBeath (vice-chair), Sandra Gaudet. Missing: Dr. Rosemary Herbert.

Recent Stories