No new RN hires in Red Deer mean staffing crisis is likely to continue into next weekend

Almost a full month after United Nurses of Alberta filed a grievance to resolve critical staff shortages in the Red Deer Regional Hospital Emergency Department, the staffing crisis in the department continues.

As a result, heavy use of overtime is still required to keep the Red Deer Emergency Department in operation.

On July 6, more than 90 hours of overtime and additional shifts were worked in the Emergency Department. On July 7, more than 126 hours of overtime and additional shifts were worked, and on July 8, more than 152 hours of overtime and additional shifts were worked, said UNA Labour Relations Director David Harrigan.

As of yesterday, Harrigan said, more than 56 hours that need to be staffed by Registered Nurses had still not been filled in the Emergency Department’s schedule for Friday, July 20; more than 88 hours for Saturday, July 21; and more than 55 hours for Sunday, July 22. This does not include overtime and additional shifts that RNs have already signed up to work.

Meanwhile, not a single vacancy for emergency room RNs is posted on the AHS website, Harrigan said.

In response to AHS’s failure to post any RN positions, UNA has formally requested that an arbitrator be appointed to resolve the June 19 grievance, which calls for the equivalent of 27 full-time new RN hires.

“At the end of the June 28 meeting, we believed we had an understanding that AHS would immediately post some of the positions that are needed,” Harrigan said. “We were pleased and believed the problem had been significantly reduced.

“However, since then, with no jobs posted, the problems in the department have continued, including heavy reliance on RNs working overtime,” Harrigan said. “AHS needs to live up to its commitment and immediately start hiring nurses to ease the staffing crisis in Red Deer, as promised. Spending additional taxpayers’ dollars on an arbitration is ridiculous.”

The grievance was filed after two years of efforts by UNA to get AHS to resolve critical staffing shortages in the department. When news media began to report the crisis on June 23, AHS pointed to staff vacations as the cause of the problem and promised it would be swiftly resolved.

“It is important to understand that this is not a problem caused by a cluster of vacations, but by chronic understaffing at this facility over a long period of time,” Harrigan explained in a UNA news release on June 25.

UNA’s grievance states that the employer, AHS, has failed to post vacancies in the Red Deer Regional Hospital Emergency Department, that this had resulted in mandatory overtime and additional shifts for RNs equivalent to 27 full-time positions over the previous 10 weeks.

United Nurses of Alberta represents more than 30,000 Alberta Registered Nurses, Registered Psychiatric Nurses and allied health care workers in Alberta.


For more information, contact David Harrigan, Director of Labour Relations, United Nurses of Alberta, 780-425-1025 or 1-800-252-9394 at the UNA Provincial Office in Edmonton, by cellular telephone at 780-709-5645, or by email at