Nurses feel a freeze

The union representing nurses in Alberta says Alberta Health Services is reducing health-care delivery with a new review process for hiring staff.

The union representing nurses in Alberta says Alberta Health Services is reducing health-care delivery with a new review process for hiring staff.

Nurses are calling it a hiring freeze.

Jane Sustrik, second vice-president at United Nurses of Alberta, said in April there were between 1,400 and 1,500 registered nurse vacancies, from casual to full-time, in Alberta Health Services.

On of Friday, a total of 103 positions for registered nurses were advertised on the AHS website.

And any request by health-care managers to hire nurses will follow a lengthy route up to top administrators, she said.

“What I’ve been told is it takes a good part of 10 weeks, if not more, if it were to be approved,” Sustrik said on Friday.

In the meantime, patients and nurses will be under even more stress, she said.

“Everyone is walking on this tightrope of uncertainty,” Sustrik said on Friday. “Patients are going to wait longer to be seen.”

The union is filing grievances about the vacancies.

Bruce Conway, Alberta Health Services spokesperson, said it is incorrect to call the review a hiring freeze.

The review process was developed for Alberta’s new health-care structure that amalgamated all nine regional health boards to create the Alberta Health Services Board about 12 months ago.

“You will see more job postings as we move forward with this. But we’re a little slow as this whole new process gets rolling,” Conway said.

It’s all about making sure dollars are spent effectively and ensuring “you’re getting the right people in the right places,” he said.

“As of June 1, there’s a new mechanism in place for hiring where each of the jobs are scrutinized. The executive has to sign off on each of the hires.”

Sustrik said with an international nurse shortage, some nurses in Alberta may just give up and search for work in other provinces or countries.

Employment “angst” will be higher in smaller communities, especially where there is the fear of closure or changes in service delivery at local hospitals, she said.

“Certainly Red Deer would have less options and as you go out from there, the Ponokas and the Lacombes have even less.”

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