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Alberta nurses dispute AHS claims that staffing levels adequate

Last Updated Jul 23, 2021 at 1:09 pm MDT

Stock image of hospital beds.
Summary

AHS: hospital beds closed as healthcare staff take breaks, but the system is safe

Nurses' union: staffing shortages have never been so bad, is not a minuscule deviation from normal summer shortages

EDMONTON – Alberta Health Services says some hospital beds in the province had to close temporarily while others open to adjusting to patient and staffing needs.

In a press conference, AHS said it has more people employed today than ever before, but those people are tired and taking breaks and vacations.

That’s making Alberta’s vacancy numbers go from what AHS says is normal, six per cent during the summer, to 6.8 per cent today.


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“These are extraordinary times coming out of the pandemic, none of us has done this before. But care is safe. No one should feel nervous or hesitant about seeking care in the system” said AHS Chief Operating Officer Deb Gordon.

AHS’s CEO Verna Yiu echoed those sentiments.

“The system is safe and is here for Albertans and we’ve got plans in place,” Yiu said.

But the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) points out this isn’t such a minuscule change. The union says nurses can’t remember vacancies ever being this high and it’s affecting care.

“What I’m hearing is it’s a lot worse and it’s not something that many have experienced, where they told late last night that tomorrow morning the emergency department will be closed at a rural site because they simply don’t have staff,” said UNA President Heather Smith.

She says it’s normal to have some operating rooms or other rooms that are in lower demand in the summer months and healthcare staff take vacations.


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But Smith says shortages right now go beyond the average holiday staffing issues.

“This is not normal.”

UNA says staffing shortages have only been amplified by the pandemic.