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Nurses and supporters to rally against changes to health delivery system

Last Updated Feb 12, 2020 at 10:01 am MDT

PHOTO. Supplied. United Nurses of Alberta.

Nurses and their supporters are expected to rally along Hospital St. on Feb. 13.

The United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) will be joined by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) and the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA)

Premier Jason Kenney’s government is eyeing sweeping reforms on health delivery, including changes to how nurses are paid and deployed.

Last week, Health Minister Tyler Shandro released 57 recommendations made by Ernst & Young on ways to save money and make the health-delivery system more efficient.

That report says Alberta has higher nursing staffing levels than comparable jurisdictions and that highly skilled staff are being used in situations where lesser skilled staff would do, such as keeping watch on at-risk patients.

President of Local 96 of UNA, JoAnn Cluney said there are gaps that need to be filled.

“I know they say Alberta nurses make way too much money on overtime. A simple solution would be to fill those positions that are vacant, so we don’t have to work overtime.”

Cluney said that cutting front line workers would affect patient care by creating longer wait times in the emergency department and patients likely won’t receive proper care with assessments and interventions.

“We’re doing this to raise awareness because our main focus is safe patient care and we want to continue to provide safe patient care. By cutting frontline workers and nurses it’s going to set us back.”

The UNA said the government is proposing no wage increases over the next four years, along with reductions to overtime, holiday and premium pay. There would also be reductions in worker scheduling rights and benefits, including eliminating designated rest days for part-timers.

Currently, nurses can be deployed within 100 km, but Cluney said should the government extend that distance, nurses in Fort McMurray could end up travelling to Lac La Biche.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro says a lot of work needs to be done but is confident a deal can be struck that is in the best interests of patients.

Alberta has 29,000 registered nurses, 265 of which are in Wood Buffalo.

The rally will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

*With files from The Canadian Press