February 21st, 2020

More health cuts on the way: FOM

By GILLIAN SLADE on December 4, 2019.

NEWS FILE PHOTO
Alberta Union of Provincial Employees protest outside Medicine Hat Regional Hospital at the end of October. Friends of Medicare says 5,100 health care jobs will be lost across the province, citing letters from AHS negotiators to unions.

gslade@medicinehatnews.com@MHNGillianSlade

Friends of Medicare says letters from Alberta Health Services negotiators to unions shows the real number of job losses in the health care field is actually 5,100 across the province.

Executive director Sandra Azocar says the letters break it down further. In addition to the 750 RNs that we heard about last Friday there will be 70 pharmacy positions impacted, 850 lab positions, up to 2,000 housekeepers, 350 administration support and medical transcription employees, 250 general support staff, 235 laundry and linen operations staff, 200 auxiliary nursing positions such as LPNs (licensed practical nurses) and health-care aides, 200 home care staff, and 165 food service staff who will lose their jobs.

“It shows the incredible shortsightedness that this government is exhibiting …. job losses and front-line services …. the people who are actually caring for Albertans,” said Azocar. “It’s disheartening to see that this government instead of looking at expanding our health care system and improving it in that way has decided that cutting jobs will be a way for them to meet their projected budget.”

A request for an interview with Health Minister Tyler Shandro, regarding these numbers was not granted, but an emailed statement was provided by his press secretary Steve Buick.

“The minister expects the AHS Review to identify potential savings in management; the mandate of the review is focused on management and the structure of the organization, with a view to making it more efficient and responsive.”

In mid-July, Shandro announced that Ernst and Young had been awarded the $2 million contract to do a review of AHS, the organization created to deliver health care in 2008 when regional health boards were done away with by the previous Conservative government. Ernst and Young must present a report to the UCP government by Dec. 31 this year.

The mandate for the review includes looking at administrative costs, as well as ways to improve access and service levels. The review was to include consultations with AHS staff, physicians and other stakeholders.

AHS has an estimated 102,000 employees. Its budget is $15.2 billion.

Buick says the government has kept its promise and is not reducing health spending, but in fact increasing it by one per cent, which is $200 million. Of that amount, $100 million is for AHS.

“We’re not cutting back services or access,” reads the statement. “AHS will maintain or increase access by moving staff and resources where they’re most needed based on benchmarking to top-performing clinical units through its Operational Best Practice program.”

Buick says additional efficiencies are expected to be identified in the Ernst and Young review.

“We recognize the cost of serving our growing and aging population is rising every year but we need to fund those costs in the existing budget. That means tough decisions even though the overall budget is not going down,” reads the statement from the minister’s office.

Buick says the reduction of staff is less than the average turnover of AHS staff and so is achievable through attrition.

“Almost three-quarters of all the potential impacts to health care jobs over the next three years is potential use of alternate providers – change of employer, not reduction in jobs overall.”

Azocar says Premier Jason Kenney repeatedly talked of addressing an excess of management positions in AHS and not front-line staff.

“What we see is that that public guarantee meant nothing,” Azocar said, disputing the notion that the job losses will be achieved through attrition.

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