In a letter dated today (November 29) which was shared by the NDP opposition in Alberta, Alberta Health Services (AHS) says it will be eliminating 500 full-time equivalent nursing jobs in the province over the next three years.   

The letter came from AHS Lead Negotiator Raelene Fitz and was sent to the Director of Labour Negotiations for the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) David Harrington.  It says while the health care budget has remained stable, Alberta is facing a "growing and aging population" which "means we need to be more efficient and focused in terms of health care spending." 

The letter goes on to say that, "AHS will proceed using an 'attrition-only' approach until March 31, 2020.  Beginning April 1, 2020, AHS will use all options under the collective bargaining agreement to implement OBP (operational best practices).  Total FTE (full-time equivalent) impact over the next three years is estimated to be 500." 

According to UNA estimates, the move will lead to the loss of at least 750 front-line registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses' jobs, once job sharing is factored into the equation.   UNA calls the move "massive downsizing." 

UNA President Heather Smith said in a news release, "From the tone of what we were told, we believe this is only the first wave of layoffs affecting RNs represented by UNA."  She went on to says that Premier Jason Kenney and other members of his party promised during the election campaign that cuts they were planning would not affect front line health care workers. 

A statement from Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews says, 

“The Government of Alberta has been abundantly clear that spending restraint, change, and innovation is necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of the high-quality services Albertans rely on. 

“In order to be transparent and respect the collective bargaining process, unions were notified of potential workforce restructuring to ensure taxpayer dollars bring greater value to Albertans and the communities we serve. 

“The MacKinnon report clearly showed, the status quo is not a sustainable option. Despite spending far more per capita on services than other large provinces, our outcomes are no better and often worse. 

“We were also clear about the need for an ongoing review of government programs to ensure they are efficient and effective, and that this could result in changes to the public service. 

“This means that some difficult but necessary decisions are required to ensure available funding is directed to the front-line services Albertans need most. 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. 

“We have the highest respect and admiration for all public sector workers. These potential changes do not change the value we place on their dedication to Albertans.” 

The NDP Opposition critic for health care David Shepherd calls the move "shameful."  "I can't see any way this does not have a significant negative impact on patient care." 

Alberta nurses are ready to begin 2020 collective bargaining talks.