Alberta health care unions say review could further destabilize system in crisis
Health-care unions say an overhaul of Alberta Health Services could further destabilize a system already in crisis.
Leaders from the Alberta Union of Public Employees, the Canadian Union for Public Employees, the Health Sciences Association of Alberta and the United Nurses of Alberta held a news conference Monday to call on the government to fix staffing issues in the health-care system.
“Alberta’s health-care system is in crisis,” said Mike Parker, president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta. “We are no longer able to ensure that an Albertan waiting for care will get it in time. People are dying waiting for care.”
The unions sent a letter earlier in the day to Health Minister Jason Copping to request an urgent meeting.
Steve Buick, a spokesman for Copping, said providing Albertans with better access to health care is the minister’s No. 1 priority.
“To do that, we’re working to rebuild the health workforce, which is under strain across Canada,” he said in an emailed statement. “We need to do more and act faster to get more staff into the system.”
Buick said Copping would be happy to meet with union leaders to talk once he has a plan.
The unions, which represent more than 120,000 workers, said the problem won’t be solved by a reorganization of Alberta Health Services, which delivers front-line care under the policy direction of Alberta Health.
Premier Danielle Smith has said the staffing shortages were “manufactured by the bad decisions of Alberta Health Services.”
Smith also blamed the agency for long wait times for care and ambulances and has promised to reorganize its entire governance system and fire its board by mid-January.
Parker, however, said the public health-care system has been neglected for years.
“The problem is in a system that won’t be solved by another reorganization of AHS, or by firing people or even by more acts of privatization of our health-care system,” he said.
Sandra Azocar, a vice president with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, said the province needs to keep its focus on the staffing shortages that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“At a time when we’re still reeling from the impacts of a deadly pandemic, we have a premier that has indicated that she wants to transform our public health-care system and starting this transformation by creating havoc and further upheaval at a time when our health-care system and health-care workers are in need of support and real solutions and not damaging distractions.”
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