Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the Catholic Bishops of Alberta have agreed to enter into access agreements that formally clarify the roles and responsibilities of appointed Catholic clergy and chaplains in AHS facilities across the province.

The first two agreements were signed today, December 11, by Vickie Kaminski, President and CEO of Alberta Health Services, Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, and Bishop  David Motiuk of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton. The remaining three agreements will be signed at a later date by Bishop Frederick Henry of Calgary, Bishop Paul Terrio of St. Paul, and Archbishop Gerard Pettipas of Grouard-McLennan.

All five agreements are expected to be in effect on Jan. 5.

Alberta Health Minister Stephen Mandel was on hand for the signing ceremony, which took place in the Robbins Chapel of the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton. 

Mandel told the chaplains and dignitaries present that the agreement represents "a great partnership" that will benefit the spiritual well-being of patients and their families across Alberta. "We will supply the best medical help, and we'll let you supply the best spiritual help," he said.

Kaminski thanked the Bishops for initiating the agreement, noting that Alberta Health Services embraces the principles of patient- and family-centred care, "and that involves providing care that addresses each person’s specific health, emotional and spiritual needs,

“These agreements help to clarify roles and responsibilities as we collaborate to best respond to the unique needs of Catholic patients and families in AHS facilities.”

Archbishop Smith called it a significant moment for the Catholic community, which at  about 800,000 is the largest faith group in Alberta. The presence of the minister and the CEO was a tangible sign of the importance the government attaches to the new agreement, he said.

Bishop David said the agreement not only formally recognizes our Catholic chaplains; it also reflects the "trinity of mind, body and spirit in providing care to the whole person."

Catholic chaplains are clergy or professionally trained lay persons who have been designated by their respective bishops to serve Catholics in hospitals. Their ministry includes praying with patients, spiritual counselling, bringing Communion, and ensuring patients receive sacraments such as Reconciliation or Anointing of the Sick.

The chaplains also collaborate with AHS spiritual care providers, who are trained to provide care for patients and families from various faith and no-faith perspectives.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.