Alberta Health Services has closed 11 beds at Lacombe’s only hospital due to temporary staff shortages.
The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees said Friday, health care services across the province are “buckling under pandemic pressure” and this has been made worse by AHS failing to give nursing care and general support services staff the resources they need.
“These problems started well before the coronavirus, but the pandemic exacerbated them,” said AUPE vice-president Bonnie Gostola.
Union members at the Lacombe Hospital and Care Centre say they’ve been burning out for years because critical shifts remain empty, the AUPE said, adding staff members fear even fewer Albertans will seek work in health care after a three per cent wage rollback proposal targeted towards nurses.
“AHS wonders why it can’t attract and retain talent – this is why,” said Gostola.
“They have no respect for their employees, who’ve poured heart and soul into this work over the past 15 months. Our members are endlessly compassionate, but they are not bottomless vessels. They’re drained. Some haven’t seen a raise in years, and they need this government to pour into them for a change.”
In a statement, AHS said the temporary closure of 11 beds will not affect patient care, as the site has sufficient capacity.
“Of the 24 remaining beds, there are 20 admitted patients. With the reduction of staffed beds, there is still space for additional patients, including private space for palliative patients, as needed,” said AHS.
“This situation is temporary and we are working to quickly resolve it. We are continuing every effort to fill vacancies, and look forward to reopening the beds when safe staffing levels are stabilized. Patients presently in hospital will continue to receive safe, high quality care.”
The emergency department remains open and there is enough bed availability to ensure admissions will continue, AHS noted.
“There are no other service disruptions at the site. We would like to thank the community for their patience and understanding during this time,” the statement said.
Gostola said “the province’s attack on healthcare workers” has been relentless.
“Why would a parent with kids to feed apply for a cleaning position with AHS today, when they’re just going to get a pink slip tomorrow?“ she asked.
“I hear from members all the time – we’re talking people with 20 year’s experience – who are thinking of quitting entirely because they have no other choice. That’s how bad it is.”
Long-time employees fear for their job security and for the wellness of their neighbours, the AUPE said.