Alberta government to cut 11,000 positions at AHS

This article was originally published by CityNews/660 News Edmonton on October 13, 2020. You can view the original article here.

The United Conservative government is about to cut 11,000 jobs from Alberta Health Services (AHS).

Health Minister Tyler Shandro made the announcement at a news conference in Edmonton saying the cuts will save AHS about $600 million annually.

Frontline workers such as doctors and nurses are not part of this move. Instead, lab techs, cafeteria, and housekeeping staff will be contracted to private companies.

A minimum of 100 management positions will be eliminated and a full review of senior AHS executives will be completed before the end of the fiscal year.

“The pandemic has changed everything. As a result, AHS has been directed to proceed carefully, putting patient care above all else. As a first step, AHS has been directed to eliminate a minimum of 100 management positions and to proceed with previously announced contracting work,” said Shandro.

“This approach will allow us to strike the right balance between supporting the COVID-19 response and Alberta’s challenging fiscal situation.”

He said some of the cuts will come from further contracting out of laundry and lab services, with possibly housekeeping and food
services also being outsourced in the future.

Shandro said about 70 per cent of community lab services are currently provided by the private sector, while about 68 per cent of health-care laundry is already cleaned by the private sector.

AHS will also streamline non-clinical and back-office operations, including optimizing distribution and inventory management and strengthening staff scheduling and overtime management systems.

President of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), Gil McGowan said the cuts come at a bad time economically and believes it will mean reduced access to some health care services.

“Thousands of lab service workers are going to lose their jobs. The government is suggesting that lab service workers are not frontline workers which is outrageous.”

McGowan worries the cuts could go even further.

“We think that at least 750 frontline registered nurses will lose their jobs as a result of these cuts.”

When asked whether frontline positions will be safe following the pandemic, Shandro didn’t give a clear answer only saying by the time COVID is done, any involuntary reductions will be minimal and right now, they’re focused on contracting out certain services.

Shandro was also asked about fears the UCP is moving towards a private health care system in the future, after a policy on the issue leaked ahead of the party’s annual general meeting.

The Health Minister said any talk about the Americanization of health care in Alberta is untrue and that “Nobody will be forced in Alberta to pay for anything” for health care.

He concluded by saying every dollar saved will be reinvested in patient care to improve the health-care system during the pandemic.

However, the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA), completely disagrees saying these moves will not save money.

“This government has decided to tear apart it’s best line of defense against the ongoing pandemic,” The HSAA said in a release. “To be clear, this is about privatizing health care. Privatization costs more and could very easily result in poorer health outcomes during this pandemic.”

The release goes on to call the cuts shameful and that Shandro is abdicating all responsibility for the health and safety of Albertans.

–With files from The Canadian Press