Manitoba's Health Minister says based on other provinces, reducing the number of members on a Regional Health Authority board, should, in fact, make that board more efficient.

Kelvin Goertzen announced last week, rural boards will be trimmed from 15 to 12 members and that anyone wishing to sit on a board is asked to submit their nomination by mid-September, even those currently on the board.

(Manitoba Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen)"We think that they will manage themselves better as a board."

That was an explanation given by Goertzen last week in an interview with (STOL), for the reason why boards will shrink in size. That explanation prompted Guy Levesque, board Chair for Southern Health-Santé Sud to question how a board with fewer members can be more efficient.

"It's something that we've seen across Canada," explains Goertzen. "In fact, most other provinces and Regional Health Authorities have been reducing the size of their boards, because they find that it's the right number to ensure that decisions are made more quickly and that there's more engagement among board members."

For example, Goertzen says there are 10 members on Vancouver's health board, 7 on Alberta Health Services board and 9 in Ontario.

"I'm pretty sure then in jurisdictions like Vancouver and Alberta and Ontario, which have larger regions, if they can manage with considerably less members than twelve, that our Regional Health Authorities, I believe and have confidence will do well with twelve," he says.

"That means that your board has to make sure they attend the meetings more," was another response by Levesque. "That has not been a problem for my area but I'm sure it has been a problem in some areas."

Goertzen says he finds it alarming and concerning that the board Chair of an RHA would suggest that not all members are attending as many meetings as possible.

"As a Health Minister who will be involved in appointing these board members, it is my clear expectation that board members will attend as many meetings as possible," notes Goertzen.

And finally, Levesque told STOL he is concerned that wholesale changes on a board could be very difficult on staff and in fact be similar to what happened four years ago when RHAs started from scratch following amalgamation.

Goertzen says he is not suggesting that boards will see wholesale changes, as he is encouraging existing board members to reapply. But he says change is often good for boards and if wholesale changes make the boards better, then his department will look to make wholesale changes. Goertzen promises to do what is best for the boards, which is ultimately best for regions, health care and Manitobans.

Further to that, Goertzen says back in April, during the provincial election campaign, the NDP government appointed 25 members to health boards.

"I would consider that to be somewhat close to wholesale change," says Goertzen. "And yet I didn't hear a concern from Mr. Levesque at that time about that kind of a change."

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