Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has made good on her promise to rehaul Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) leadership and has fired 11 members of the department’s board.

On Thursday afternoon, Smith announced the board was replaced with administrator Dr. John Cowell, a role he’s held before.

“He can accelerate the changes that we all need to see,” Smith said at a news conference. 

Cowell has been charged with reducing ambulance, emergency room and surgical wait times and developing long-term reforms through consultations with front-line workers.

Smith said he will be a full-time administrator and will report directly to her and Health Minister Jason Copping.

Cowell said the public may be skeptical, but urged that he hopes to contribute to a better healthcare experience. 

“I am ready to get to work on behalf of Albertans, building a better system to support patients needing care. I look forward to working with the AHS team, and taking tangible actions to drive much-needed change,” he said. 

“If we’re failing, it’s on me.”

Health Minister Jason Copping said the government must act quickly. He said the government wants to provide all scheduled surgeries within a reasonable time, but it will likely need until 2024 to get back on track. 

“We will do better tomorrow and the next day and we will work at this until we deliver on our promise to Albertans,” he said.

A June survey from the Alberta Medical Association found that 84% of respondents believe wait times in Alberta emergency departments are “fairly” or “very” long. Respondents reported waiting up to five hours for care.

NDP leader Rachel Notely criticized the announcement, saying it “does nothing to get Albertans a family doctor, nothing to address the specific calls from frontline paramedics to reduce wait times, and nothing to get children’s medication in the hands of Alberta parents,” she said in a statement. 

On Monday, the government announced that Dr. Deena Hinshaw had been fired as Alberta’s chief medical health officer and replaced with Dr. Mark Joffe.


  • Rachel Emmanuel

    Rachel is a seasoned political reporter who’s covered government institutions from a variety of levels. A Carleton University journalism graduate, she was a multimedia reporter for three local Niagara newspapers. Her work has been published in the Toronto Star. Rachel was the inaugural recipient of the Political Matters internship, placing her at The Globe and Mail’s parliamentary bureau. She spent three years covering the federal government for iPolitics. Rachel is the Alberta correspondent for True North based in Edmonton.