Hundreds of Alberta nurses are set to lose their jobs, says their union.
The news Friday has the United Nurses of Alberta calling for an emergency meeting with the health minister.
The UNA, in a release said “hundreds of front-line Registered Nurses and Registered Psychiatric Nurses will lose their jobs in massive downsizing planned by Alberta Health Services.”
The AHS – which employs more than 26,000 nurses – told the UNA they expected an “estimated” 500 full time jobs will disappear over three years.
The union said they were informed of the job losses Friday morning through AHS lead negotiator Raelene Fitz.
The elimination of that many RN and RPN FTEs, equivalent to over a million fewer hours of care, will mean more than 750 front-line registered nurses will be laid off, UNA President Heather Smith said..
“From the tone of what we were told, we believe this is only the first wave of layoffs affecting RNs represented by UNA,” Smith said, adding AHS officials were also scheduled to meet bargaining representatives from other health care unions Friday.
“There are also clear indications that AHS plans to shift many of the costs of health care onto Albertans require treatment.
“Premier Jason Kenney and other members of the United Conservative Party promised repeatedly during last spring’s election campaigns that the cuts they planned would not touch front-line health care workers. Participants at (Saturday’s) UCP meeting in Calgary might want to ask the premier about why AHS is moving ahead with plans to break his promise and lay off front-line nurses.
“We do not believe Albertans will support this plan, and they should tell the premier so.
“In light of the promises made by the government not to touch front-line health care workers, we will be asking for an immediate emergency meeting with Health Minister Tyler Shandro.”
The AHS, which received a $150 million budget increase in October said the cuts were necessary because of the growing and aging population in the province.
In a letter to the union, Fitz suggested the AHS would continue to look for ways to revamp the health system.
“AHS will continue to consider all options available to meet our organizational needs including changes to staff mix, service design including changes and repurposing of sites, relocating services, reducing or ceasing the provision of services,” Fitz said in a letter addressed to UNA Labour Relations Director David Harrigan.
At a business conference in Lake Louise, Kenney told reporters: “We’ve always been clear that getting our province’s finances back in order will require some reduction in the size of the overall public service, and that we hope to achieve that primarily through attrition. My understanding is that’s the goal of AHS management.”
Noting the $150 million budget increase Kenney added “there’s actually no overall reductions in the AHS budget. We’ve kept our commitment. But they do have to find efficiencies to deal with the growing cost demands that come from an aging population.”
Finance Minisster Travis Toews issued a statement Friday afternoon after the nurses’ news broke.
“The MacKinnon report clearly showed, the status quo is not a sustainable option. This means that some difficult but necessary decisions are required to ensure available funding is directed to the front-line services Albertans need most.
“These could include changes to staffing levels, aligning resources to areas where need is greater, as well as finding alternative ways to deliver services that would keep jobs in the Alberta economy,” the statement said.
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