But Copping said such legislation would work apart from the clinical realm where the government will still encourage vaccinations, noting the Pfizer bivalent booster will become available in Alberta on Monday.
During his time as health minister, Copping and other government officials emphasized the value of vaccines in reducing levels of severe illness and preventing the health-care system from collapsing.
But she said having flexibility on future COVID-19 policy makes sense both practically and politically.
In a speech to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Smith reiterated her vow to overhaul the AHS, accusing it of failing to provide sufficient beds during the pandemic and for critically undermining staffing levels by previously requiring employees be vaccinated for COVID-19.
That will include replacing the chief medical officer of health with an advisory panel and dismissing the AHS’s governing board, while admitting health-care delivery “will be bumpy for the next 90 days” of the rapid change of course.
She said the health-care reboot posed a “perilous” political risk, but one that had to be taken.
When asked if such a rapid reboot risks increasing chaos in a system now under siege with lengthening wait times — and with one Edmonton emergency physician telling CTV News that patients have died in waiting rooms — Copping said that what he’s heard from those working inside it during a four-month consultative process is that quick change is needed.
“The key messages we received in this tour is we need to do more to support (health-care workers),” he said.
“There’s a recognition that we need to do things differently, so I’m really looking forward to working with the premier and setting in place a thoughtful implementation plan, not only integrating what we’re already doing but what else can we can do to ensure our front-line workers have the tools as we move forward.”
He also said that, despite Smith not having been elected by Albertans provincewide, the government has a mandate and an obligation to move swiftly on health-care reform.
“We need to deliver health care, we’ve heard loud and clear from Albertans,” said Copping.
That’ll also likely include contracting out more services paid for out of the public purse outside of hospitals to the private sector.
That policy, he said, is showing promise in reducing wait times and saving money, particularly with cataract surgeries.
“We’re actually leveraging the private sector now . . . We are going to continue to focus on how do we support our public health-care system and leverage our private sector so, yes, we’ll continue to do that,” said Copping.
“We have two requests for proposals out in the South and Central Zones.”
A key to strengthening the health-care system, he said, is bolstering staffing levels, something that is already underway with fast-tracking educational output and the qualification for international doctors and nurses.
“We fully recognize there’s a need for staffing, particularly in rural areas,” said Copping.