AHS replaces interim chief executive after only one month


Alberta Health Services shook up its leadership team yet again on Friday, replacing its interim chief executive just a month after his appointment.

In an internal memo obtained by the Herald, AHS administrator Dr. John Cowell told staff, physicians and volunteers that interim CEO Duncan Campbell will return to his role as chief financial officer, effective immediately.

Campbell, who took over from Dr. Chris Eagle in mid-October, has been replaced by two top executives — Brenda Huband and Rick Trimp — who are also temporary.

With calls for stability in the massive health care provider, Cowell said AHS will launch an international search for a permanent CEO by the end of November.

AHS’s leadership has been in flux in recent months, with an overhaul of its organizational structure, the departure of several senior executives and the firing of its board. When Eagle stepped down he said there was a need for “fresh eyes and fresh energy at the helm.”

In the memo, Cowell said the decision to create co-CEO positions highlights “the complexity of the role and the need for our organization to focus on clinical operations.”

One position is expected to focus on population health while the other will focus on hospital care and continuing care.

Calling for “stability and calm,” Cowell said senior health officials had decided to slow the pace of an ongoing review of AHS’s leadership structure, so that the permanent CEO, when appointed, could provide input. There was also a need to take time to consult with staff and clinicians, he said.

In an interview late Friday, Cowell said splitting the CEO job in two was the “best plan” to manage the complicated position.

“One change has occurred and that is to go from our previous CEO to recognizing that CEO job is very complicated and what we really needed to do was get enough horsepower on it.

“I personally made the call the best way to continue forward was to split it and divvy up those jobs.”

The latest round of changes at the top of the $13-billion health authority would not create instability, he said.

Campbell’s return to his finance portfolio comes after a gaffe earlier this month, when he tweeted that AHS would not seek bids for a proposed $3-billion Edmonton super-lab as planned, pending further consultations with staff and physicians.

Health Minister Fred Horne later said this was not the case and that nothing had changed in the government’s plans to seek proposals for a single lab for medical testing in Edmonton and northern Alberta.

Cowell said in an interview the decision to put in place new leaders was “absolutely not” connected to the confusion surrounding Campbell’s tweet on the lab services consolidation.

“That was just a communication glitch that we needed to correct.”

The new co-CEOs were expected to “carry us nicely until we find our permanent CEO,” he said.

Huband has been serving as leader of health operations for central and southern Alberta, including the Calgary zone of AHS. Trimp has been serving as the leader of population health improvement and provincial health services.


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