Dr. Verna Yiu fired from Alberta Health Services, new president and CEO sought

Alberta Health Services has announced the departure of president and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu as the health-care system shifts to pandemic recovery and renewal. 

The AHS board announced Yiu as the interim president and CEO in 2016 before extending her role for another two years effective June 2, 2021.

CTV News has confirmed Yiu was fired.

“I have had the extraordinary privilege to lead Alberta Health Services for the past six plus years,” said Dr. Yiu in a Monday news release.

“I would like to thank all staff, physicians and volunteers for their steadfast care of Albertans and their ability to put patients and families first, particularly as we have navigated through the past two pandemic years.”

Yiu said she took the role in an opportunity to “further solidify” culture, teamwork, and excellence within the organization.

“I believed that we could develop better relationships with our patients and families, and with Alberta communities. I am so proud and grateful for all AHS team members as well as our advisory groups and councils, and all the foundations who support AHS.”

The AHS board is now in the process of searching for an interim president and CEO.

A search committee was formed several months ago, and AHS says the group has already started a search process.

The board has asked Mauro Chies, vice president of Cancer Care Alberta and Clinical Support Services, to serve in the role of interim CEO on a temporary basis.

Board chair Gregory Turnbull says they expect an “orderly transition.”

“We are very grateful for Dr. Yiu’s tireless leadership through the worst days of the pandemic, and we thank her for her years of dedicated service and commitment to AHS and to Albertans,” said Turnbull.

‘EVEN DEEPER CHAOS’: NDP RESPONDS

NDP health critic David Shepherd responded to the announcement on Monday by saying the UCP has pushed the public health-care system in Alberta “into even deeper chaos.”

“Their decision to fire Dr. Verna Yiu comes at a critical time for our province and for public health care in general,” said Shepherd.

He said Yiu was a “consummate professional” who capably managed the province’s hospital system during the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the most difficult years in the history of Alberta.

“Albertans have seen the candor that she brought to COVID briefings – a willingness to tell the truth that we certainly did not get from our ministers of health Tyler Shandro or Jason Copping.”

Sheppard said he can’t help but wonder if Yiu’s “habit of giving Albertans the straight goods is part of, if not the chief reason, the UCP has fired her.”

“She’s been targeted by the extremist factions within the UCP, MLAs who opposed even the most basic health measures, who believed the hospital system should have endless capacity to deal with the runaway spread of COVID throughout the province.

Sheppard said it’s clear that Yiu put the health and wellbeing of Albertans first during an unprecedented health crisis.

“Apparently under the UCP that’s a fireable offence.”

MINISTER COPPING THANKS YIU FOR HER LEADERSHIP

In a statement sent to CTV News on Monday, Health Minister Jason Copping said he wanted to thank Yiu “for her leadership over the past six years.”

“It’s time to move forward with an ambitious agenda to improve and modernize the health system, and renewed leadership in Alberta Health Services will support delivering those changes,” he said.

Copping says the AHS board has been planning “for some time” to start the recruitment process for a new CEO at the end of Yiu’s extended term.

“The agreement with Dr. Yiu that the board announced today will bump up the timeline for the transition and help the system move forward,” he explained.

“We promised Albertans better access to surgery and a stronger publicly funded health system with better access overall. The pandemic has changed the timelines but it hasn’t changed the goals. They’re multi-year commitments and we need to move forward on them, supported by renewed leadership at AHS.”

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