Having already faced six possible cases of Ebola in Alberta, now is not the time for Alberta Health Services to delay contract negotiations with workers, says the president of Health Sciences Association of Alberta.
HSAA represents 17,000 AHS workers, including lab technologists and diagnostic imaging staff, who have been without a contract since March 31.
On Thursday, HSAA members at nine hospitals and health centres, including Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre, held noon-hour information pickets.
HSAA president Elisabeth Ballermann said every health-care facility needs to be prepared to face Ebola.
“There’s so much work that needs to be done to ensure people are properly ready. By the way I keep hearing from members … we’re not,” Ballermann said on Thursday.
She said dedicated Ebola units may be set up at two hospitals in Edmonton and one in Calgary, but possible cases won’t necessarily present there. She’s heard that facilities don’t have as much personal protective equipment for staff as they should.
“Every time there’s someone who’s a ‘possible,’ they’ve got to be treated as if they’re an ‘actual.’ If testing shows that they have got the disease, taking the precautions after you’ve dealt with those folks is a little too late.”
Meanwhile, HSAA members are working “inordinate amounts of overtime” as facilities continuously run at capacity or higher, she said.
“Either they get a lot of overtime or they’re working short when somebody is away for some reason, including just vacation coverage, which should be planned for.”
She said members have been without a contract for almost seven months and quality of life issues, like the ability to take earned time off when they want it, remains a primary contract issue.
So far, AHS has also been unprepared to discuss wages, Ballermann said.
HSAA filed for mediation after contract negotiations broke down last week.