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Staff shortages causing rural hospital beds to close, not vacations: UNA

A nurse gets ready to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

CALGARY — The United Nurses of Alberta say staff shortages, not vacations, are what’s actually causing bed closures in rural Alberta hospitals.

The United Nurses say Health Minister Tyler Shandro’s comments on Tuesday, blaming the problem on nurses and other frontline healthcare workers taking vacations, is offensive.

“Obviously, if the system can’t operate when nurses and other health care workers take vacations, Alberta Health Services needs to hire more nurses and health care workers instead of planning to lay them off,” said UNA president Heather Smith.



“Since November of 2019 the message to nurses from this government has been clear that they are not needed or wanted here,” added Smith. “So the government has been creating this problem. They are driving nurses out of this province.”

In a release the UNA says:

“Despite the delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, AHS has made it clear to UNA in writing on several occasions that it intends to proceed, on the instructions of the government, with the elimination of 500 full-time-equivalent positions it disclosed to the union in 2019 and 2020. UNA estimates that will be the equivalent of about 750 actual Registered Nurses’ and Registered Psychiatric Nurses’ jobs.”

The UNA says staff shortages caused by intentional underfunding and attempts to find cost efficiencies at the expense of quality care are causing similar problems in every Canadian jurisdiction.

A resolution passed by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions on Wednesday morning calls on nurses’ organizations “to pressure governments to address the health human resources crisis facing nurses and other health care workers through national initiatives that support health human resources planning at the provincial and territorial levels, such as the creation of a federal health workforce agency.”