EDMONTON — Alberta’s Opposition health critic is sounding the alarm on hospital bed closures in the province during the summer due to staffing shortages.
NDP member of the legislature David Shepherd says he estimates that about 12 communities have been affected and as many as 99 beds have been temporarily closed.
He is urging Health Minister Tyler Shandro to make clear why it is happening and what other communities are at risk of bed closures.
Earlier in the day, Shandro said the government was anticipating some staff shortages in the summer because of vacations.
He also said bed closures are not related to contract talks in which the government has proposed a three per cent wage cut for nurses.
Heather Smith, president of the United Nurses of Alberta, says the closures are happening primarily in smaller communities in the north, where hospitals have been short-staffed since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have an exhausted workforce, pulling through the COVID, going on 18 months, they’re exhausted and demoralized,” she said. “Last week’s activities at the bargaining table was an incredible slap in the face for nurses.”
She says bed closures at Edmonton’s Cross Cancer Institute and the Royal Alexandra Hospital, one of the busiest in the province, are not normal.
Alberta Health Services was not immediately available for comment when asked to confirm the number of beds closed for the summer.
– With files from 660 NEWS