The province will cut a minimum of 100 Alberta Health Services (AHS) management positions will be eliminated and a full review of senior AHS executives will be completed before the end of the fiscal year.
Alberta’s government has directed that only a portion of the actions identified in the implementation plan proceed, changes that are expected to yield up to $600 million in annual savings.
“The pandemic has changed everything,” said Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health.
“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. This approach will allow us to strike the right balance between supporting the COVID-19 response and Alberta’s challenging fiscal situation.”
There will be no job losses for nurses or for other front-line clinical staff. Any reduction in full-time equivalent positions will be in keeping with proactive disclosures announced in the fall of 2019.
Plans to contract out laundry services and community lab services, both announced in 2019, will continue. Requests for proposals (RFPs) for these services will be issued before the end of the year. About 70 per cent of community lab services is currently provided by the private sector, while about 68 per cent of health-care laundry is already cleaned by the private sector.
AHS has been given the go ahead to proceed with developing business cases for both environmental and food preparation services in 2022 and 2023. Both business cases will be subject to review and approval by the Government of Alberta.
AHS will also streamline non-clinical and back office operations, including optimizing distribution and inventory management and strengthening staff scheduling and overtime management systems. Job losses will be minimized in these areas.
Initiatives stemming from the review’s recommendations that are already underway include virtual care options and consolidating regional dispatch operations. AHS performance review was announced on May 30, 2019. It was the first review of its kind since AHS was formed in 2009.
Results of the review were announced on Feb. 3, 2020. There were 57 recommendations and 72 savings opportunities identified to improve the quality and long-term sustainability of health services. AHS was asked to develop a 30-day plan for initiatives that could start immediately, as well as a long-term implementation plan.
AUPE President Guy Smith reacted to the announcement saying the UCP is downgrading Alberta’s public health-care system by forcing already over-worked staff to do more with less. The job cuts for nursing care staff and doctors, and the mass privatization ploy, are all recommendations from the government’s $2-million Ernst & Young report, which it commissioned back in 2019 to help them find ways to cut corners in AHS.
“Now that we know exactly what the damage is, we can keep prepping ourselves for the biggest fight of our lives,” says Smith. “Our AHS members are already fighting for strong contract language to stop the sell-off of housekeeping, food services and laundry jobs. We plan on winning this protection, but if we do not, strike action is on the table.
“It’s disingenuous for the Minister to say privatization won’t result in ‘net reductions’ and only a ‘change of employer,’ because we know the first thing private and for-profit companies do when they snatch up our jobs is cut wages, pensions and benefits for hardworking staff,” added Smith. “And everyday Albertans are the ones who pay the price – the patients, seniors and people with disabilities who are at the receiving end of a downgraded service.”
Smith said private companies will often resort to layoffs early in their contracts with government to boost their bottom-line. Staff end up working short, run off their feet by demanding bosses who go after our first line of defense: union protections.
“Rotting food, dirty linens, viral outbreaks, dangerous lab mix-ups: all are cited as a result of privatization in GSS across the globe. ”
Smith said AUPE’s LPNs and health-care aides (HCAs) will also be impacted after he confirmed over 800 clinical AHS jobs will be eliminated through attrition, meaning even more short-staffed floors and longer wait times in the near future.
“Is this really how the UCP are repaying frontline health-care workers after they risked their health and well-being to care for us through this pandemic, when we need them most?” added Smith. “This is pathetic, and we’re not going to let it happen.”