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Union representing Alberta nurses says dozens of positions being eliminated

File / Global News

EDMONTON – The union representing Alberta nurses says AHS plans to eliminate 23 registered nurse positions and four licensed practical nurse positions in Edmonton, and replace them with 16 health care aides.

United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) says the changes will affect four medical and surgical units at Edmonton’s Royal Alex and University of Alberta hospitals.

“This is a massive reduction of frontline nursing care and substitution with unskilled workers,” says Heather Smith, UNA President.

AHS spokesperson Kerry Williamson says the move is part of pilot projects that have been started at the two Edmonton hospitals as well one in Medicine Hat.

“The projects mean that some staff will move to new teams, units or roles at those three sites. In Edmonton, there will be some lay-offs, however we absolutely have enough open positions for nurses that we expect to rehire them all, if they want that,” Williamson tells Global News.

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But Smith believes that’s not the problem.

“The fact they are eliminating skilled providers and substituting unskilled providers in acute care hospitals is not softened, or in any way placated, by saying ‘don’t worry…these nurses will have jobs elsewhere.’ It’s not about people having jobs,” she argues. “It’s about quality of services, and the safety of patients in the system.”

Williamson insists the “new model will mean more efficient care for patients,” and will ultimately reduce hospital stays and wait times.

Smith thinks the real problem is nurses’ workloads. She feels the answer would be to “appropriately fund and staff” hospitals.

“But that’s not what’s happening here,” she says. “This is looking for financial reductions in the cost of delivering care; not looking at what’s good and best practice, and good for patients in Alberta.”

According to the UNA, the recent 27 position eliminations are among more than 150 nurse positions to have been eliminated in Calgary and Edmonton over recent months.