EDMONTON – The CEO of Alberta Health Services is out of the top job more than a year before her contract was set to expire.
The departure of Dr. Verna Yiu was announced Monday, effect immediately, ending a contract that was to run until June 2023.
“I want to thank Dr. Yiu for her leadership over the past six years,” Health Minister Jason Copping said in a statement.
“It’s time to move forward with an ambitious agenda to improve and modernize the health system.
“Renewed leadership at Alberta Health Services will support delivering those changes.”
Copping added that the plan had been to replace Yiu when her contract ended. AHS, which is the arm’s length government organization in charge of delivering front-line care, said a search committee was formed months ago.
“The agreement with Dr. Yiu that the board announced today will bump up the timeline for the transition and help the system move forward,” said Copping.
Copping previously announced a plan to expand the number of publicly funded surgeries contracted to private providers to increase access to care and reduce wait-lists.
The government also said it will expand hospital and lab spaces and hire more front-line workers.
“We promised Albertans better access to surgery and a stronger publicly funded health system with better access overall,” said Copping.
“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.”
Yiu had been in the top job for six years, at a salary of more than $574,000 a year.
In a statement, she applauded her staff for their tireless care for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, but didn’t speak to her contract ending prematurely.
“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,” said Yiu.
Mauro Chies, the vice-president in charge of Cancer Care Alberta, will serve as interim CEO for AHS.
Yiu became a familiar face to Albertans during the waves of COVID-19 that hit Alberta over the past two years, forcing staff to scramble to create and administer ad hoc critical care beds.
AHS was at the centre of debate when the province allowed non-vaccinated front-line health workers to continue to work, with testing, in order to meet staffing needs.
Opposition NDP health critic David Shepherd said Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative government made life difficult for Yiu by interfering in vaccine mandates for health workers.
Shepherd also criticized Kenney and Copping for failing to come to Yiu’s defence when some UCP backbenchers accused AHS of failing to respond effectively to the pandemic.
“She has capably managed Alberta’s hospital system through a pandemic while the UCP did everything in their power to make the situation worse,” said Shepherd.
A graduate of the University of Alberta and Harvard University, Yiu has more than two decades’ experience in health administration.
She was hired as AHS interim president in 2016 after serving as a vice-president and was eventually awarded a five-year contract through to 2021. The contract was then extended to June 2023.
Prior to joining AHS, she had been interim dean of the faculty of medicine and dentistry at the University of Alberta.
Under Yiu, the province said, AHS made strides on clinical information and virtual care along with a foundational restructuring of the organization’s goals and business plan.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 4, 2022.
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