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NDP call for emergency debate following layoff announcements from Alberta Health Services

WATCH ABOVE: Alberta nurses staged a protest outside their provincial government's annual general meeting, as Premier Jason Kenney plans to cut hundreds of nursing jobs and consider policy that will impact thousands more healthcare workers. Sarah Ryan reports.

The provincial NDP is calling for an emergency debate after a letter released Friday from the Alberta Health Services‘ lead negotiator to the United Nurses of Alberta revealed that 500 full-time positions would be eliminated over three years.

“They are going to war with front-line health-care workers in the province of Alberta, instead of providing them with the resources and support they need to address the growing pressures and workload,” NDP MLA David Shepherd, the health critic for the Opposition, said at a protest at the Alberta Legislature on Sunday.

This follows a push from the provincial government for cuts to public sector jobs over the next four years.

The official Opposition says these job losses will be a direct violation of a promise that Kenney made on the campaign trail.

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“The premier stood in front of the TV cameras this past spring and signed a giant placard saying that he would not endanger healthcare in the province of Alberta.

“Jason Kenney lied to Albertans, he’s breaking his promise,” Shepherd said.

READ MORE: UCP Leader Jason Kenney wants to explore private health-care options

Jason Kenney speaking in February 2019, when he promised to maintain or increase health spending.
Jason Kenney speaking in February 2019, when he promised to maintain or increase health spending. Global News

Shepherd is referencing a promise that has been circulating on social media that Premier Kenney made during the provincial election campaign.

“I believe we can find some savings to do things more efficiently without affecting front-line services,” Kenney said in February 2019, when he made the promise.

A Sunday statement from Jess Sinclair, press secretary for Government House Leader Jason Nixon, read: “No reductions in health spending have been made. We’ve fulfilled an obligation within the collective bargaining process to advise unions of potential impacts over the next four years, impacts that we hope that unions will work with [the] government to minimize.”

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At the UCP’s annual general meeting, taking place in Calgary this weekend, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said he’s confident patient care won’t be impacted.

“This isn’t about services being cut,” Shandro said. “This is about AHS working within their budget to find efficiencies within their own system, and moving positions around.”

Alberta Health Services cutting hundreds of nursing positions: UNA and NDP
Alberta Health Services cutting hundreds of nursing positions: UNA and NDP

READ MORE: Kenney: Opposition, unions treating budget cuts like the ‘the apocalypse’

But those who work in the health industry said Saturday that these job losses will have serious implications for all Albertans.

“The wait lists increase, the patient lists increase, the stress on the members increase,” said Mike Parker, president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta.

“The entire system gets put under further strain. The only result of that is collapse.”

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-With files from Global News’ Chris Chacon