AHS plans to reduce RN 'head count' despite ad claiming it's seeking more nurses

Despite a claim made in advertisements by Alberta Health Services that it is “looking for more full-time nurses,” United Nurses of Alberta has obtained documentation showing the province-wide health agency has plans to eliminate hundreds of nursing jobs.

The document shows close to 400 jobs would be eliminated at approximately 30 worksites in two phases of what AHS calls “staff scheduling and transformation,” said UNA President Heather Smith.

“We expect many more jobs to be eliminated as this ‘transformation’ extends across the province,” Smith said.

Contrary to what AHS has claimed, this is not a case of simply moving nurses to where they may be more needed, she added, noting that the actual phrase used by AHS in the document to describe elimination of positions is “the total head count would decrease.”

“AHS should not tell the public it is looking for more nurses when it in fact is planning to eliminate hundreds of jobs,” Smith said. “None of this, either the plan or the deceptive advertising, will raise public confidence in AHS.”

The advertisements, which have been appearing this month in newspapers and on radio throughout Alberta, state that because of population growth in the province, “we need to create more full-time nursing positions, so patients get the consistent, reliable care they need from our nurses.”

The ad goes on to make the misleading claim that only 31 per cent of Alberta nurses work full time, compared to a national average of about 60 per cent. In fact, the AHS figures contradict data collected by the Canadian Institute for Health Information based on employment status that shows about 40 per cent of Alberta nurses work full time using the same measure on which the national average quoted by AHS is based.

Regardless, Alberta Health Services employs a high percentage of part time nurses because that has been and continues to be the policy of AHS, said Smith.

Over the past year, on average only a third of RN job postings by AHS have been for full-time positions, she said. This has remained consistent from July 2012 through to October 2013.

“If AHS is truly concerned the percentage of nurses in the health care system working full time is too low, it should do what the collective agreement allows it to do,” said Smith. “It should hire more full-time nurses!” 

Click here to see the AHS Staff Scheduling Transformation document. 

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