AHS to lay off 500 nurses

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Alberta could lose more than 750 front-line nurses under a "massive downsizing" at Alberta Health Services (AHS), the United Nurses of Alberta said Friday.

Cutting 500 full-time-equivalent positions would mean layoffs for more than 750 front-line registered nurses because many nurses work part-time hours, the union said.

But Cypress Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes tells us front line workers should not be losing their jobs.

Alberta Health Services says it will likely cut hundreds of nursing positions over three years in a move to make health care spending "more efficient and focused", the province's nurses' union says.

Alberta plans to eliminate 500 nursing positions over the next three years in what the union representing registered nurses calls a betrayal of trust and a broken promise to maintain front-line care.

In the letter, AHS said jobs will be eliminated through attrition until the end of March, after which it will use "all options" it has under the collective bargaining agreement.

Alberta Health Services, which is heading into collective bargaining with nurses next year, said in a letter that it wanted to give nurses a heads-up on finances and staffing.

They are calling for an emergency meeting with Health Minister Tyler Shandro.

Alberta Health Services confirmed it shared information Friday with the UNA and two other unions - the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees and the Health Sciences Association of Alberta - "regarding potential impacts to unionized staff of measures to enhance the efficiency and performance of the health care system".

"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.

Kenney said his government promised not to cut health funding and has increased it a bit.

"Jason Kenney repeatedly claimed that he was going to protect front-line services", Notley said.

Notley, however, said she is "very, very anxious for Albertans of all walks of life because this is going to seriously destabilize the quality of health care that Albertans across this province need to rely on". 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. He does not have a mandate to do this.

A Friday letter to the union from Dennis Holliday, the head of negotiations and labour relations for Alberta Health Services (AHS), details thousands of positions at the health authority that could be at risk.

The letter adds AHS is also considering contracting out services, such as home care services including palliative care, nursing and pediatric.

"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", Kenney said.

Notley said that suggests significant structural upheaval is coming to health under Kenney.

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