400 Alberta Health employees interested in early retirement offer

CALGARY — About 400 health-care workers have expressed interest in a voluntary retirement offer meant to cut the Alberta medical system’s $1.2 billion deficit.

CALGARY — About 400 health-care workers have expressed interest in a voluntary retirement offer meant to cut the Alberta medical system’s $1.2 billion deficit.

Liberal health critic Kevin Taft says that reflects the dismal morale in a mismanaged system.

He says the attractiveness of early retirement is a symptom of a revolving door among deputy health ministers, the elimination of health regions and the fallout of staff cuts back in the 1990s.

Alberta Health Services spokesman Mark Kastner says the number has to be placed in the perspective of an organization that employs 90,000 people.

He says people are always interested in exploring other options if they’re close to retirement.

Terms of the voluntary packages won’t be available until next week.

Kastner says it’s too early to tell how many retirements are expected, how much they’ll cost or what they’ll save.

“One thing for certain is that it’s still cheaper to offer voluntary severance than involuntary severance,” said Kastner.

While Taft expressed concerns over the impact the downsizing would have on patient care, AHS officials say they’ll avoid targeting clinical areas.

“It’s important to keep in mind accessibility, quality and sustainability,” said Kastner.

Another avenue being considered, he said, is to slow down infrastructure construction.

Taft said he fears the retirements won’t be offset by recruiting.

“The only thing they could do worse than this is not hiring young staff,” he said.

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