January 24th, 2021

MLA says health-care job losses an issue of inefficiencies

By GILLIAN SLADE on December 5, 2019.

The Medicine Hat Regional Hospital is shown in an undated file photo.


A local MLA says there should be a focus on reducing unnecessary layers of management within Alberta Health Services.

“I think the government needs to focus on making sure that managers managing managers are where the changes are made,” said Drew Barnes, MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat. “I’m hopeful that any job loss can happen through attrition.”

Letters between Alberta Health Services and unions peg the real number of job losses to be 5,100 across the province.

Friends of Medicare executive director Sandra Azocar says the letters indicate job losses to include 750 RNs, 70 pharmacy positions, 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.

Barnes says the government has to address the cost per capita spent on health care compared to other provinces, as well as inefficiencies in the system.

In July the health minister announced that Ernst and Young had been awarded a $2-million contract to do a review of AHS and present a report to the UCP government by Dec. 31.

The review had to look at administrative costs, ways to improve access and service levels plus consultations with AHS staff, physicians and other stakeholders.

The revelation of the loss of jobs comes before the Ernst and Young report is even revealed.

“I think a large part of what the government has done is complied with the labour regulations and union contracts and a lot of it is in response to unions asking for an eight per cent increase at a time when the private sector is under such stress,” said Barnes.

He acknowledges that the UCP election platform was all about jobs and getting Albertans back to work. Barnes says he believes people recognize though that there has been a “downward trend and they know that it is going to take a little while to turn it around.”

Barnes admits to being concerned about how long the turn-around could take.

“All I can do is monitor and if I think that the government needs to take strong direction in another way then I would absolutely recommend it,” said Barnes.

Azocar is particularly concerned about the job expected with the intention of contracting out services including home care – even more than is currently taking place.

“Now we’re going to be seeing nursing home care contracted out, we’re going to be seeing palliative care contracted out and pediatrics home care contracted out,” said Azocar.

How the 5,100 jobs affected will play out across the province has not been spelled out yet but Azocar says there are indications rural areas will be affected the most by anticipated changes.

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