Nurses from Hinton to Lethbridge — as well as Red Deer — took to the streets as part of a provincewide demonstration Thursday.
Information walks were held in 24 communities across the province, and about 90 United Nurses of Alberta members and supporters from other unions walked from City Hall Park to Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan’s office at noon.
As many as 750 registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses are facing possible layoffs, or wage rollbacks, as part of downsizing planned by Alberta Health Services, according to the nurses’ union.
“Patient care will suffer,” said Susan Beatson, UNA president of Local 2, which represents nurses at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre and Michener Extendicare, at Red Deer’s information walk.
She said there are other ways to reduce costs instead of putting it on the backs of workers who are overworked, stressed and burning out.
“We’re here to let our voices be heard,” Beatson said.
Claire Goertzen, vice-president of UNA Local 218, which represents community nurses across central Alberta, said privatization ends up costing patients money.
“We’ve been down this road before. Cutting services at the front line is definitely going to affect clients’ care,” Goertzen said.
“We’re all out today on these rally lines to show support for our nurses, because the cuts that Jason Kenney and the UCP government is bringing forward is going to put patient health at risk,” said NDP red tape critic Chris Nielsen.
When the group arrived at Stephan’s office, the MLA told them he didn’t know anything about cuts to nursing, but that the MacKinnon Report on Alberta’s finances showed that the per capita cost of health care is much higher in Alberta compared to Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
“In order to have sustainability in health care services that all Albertans enjoy, we just need to make sure we have control over the costs of services, which have exceeded inflation and population growth for a long period of time,” Stephan said.
He said the government was elected to balance the budget.
“Our focus is in fact making sure that the limited resources that we have, from a taxpayer perspective, are provided and focused on the front line to make sure that we reduce the costs of services as opposed to the services themselves.”