Black Friday announcements signal dark days ahead for public health care
Announcements made on Black Friday of the loss of well over 5,100 front-line health care jobs highlights the deep disdain for public services that our current government holds.
“These announcements were a clear move away from the collectivism that drives our social programs, a move away from the caring and compassion that is necessary to advance our society. It was a reiteration of a commitment to an endless quest to privatize our needed public services,” states Sandra Azocar, executive director of Friends of Medicare.
To recap, the announcements indicated job losses for:
- 750 RN and RPNs;
- 70 pharmacy and health information positions, and;
- 850 positions via the privatization of Alberta Precision Labs (formerly Alberta Public Labs);
- 1,000 to 2,000 housekeepers;
- 350 administrative support and medical transcription employees;
- 250 general support staff, such as maintenance employees;
- 235 laundry and linen operations staff;
- 200 auxiliary nursing employees, such as licensed practical nurses and health-care aides;
- 200 home care services staff;
- 165 foodservice employees; and,
- 2,500 public sector jobs, including in the ministries of health, Service Alberta, and community and social services.
More job losses are anticipated following the commencement of the government’s review of Alberta Health Services (AHS). These announcements came alongside notice that AHS will be considering future contracting out initiatives, and the privatization of emergency, non-emergency and hospital transfer ambulance services. In letters received by public sector unions, Dennis Holliday, head of negotiations and labour relations for AHS stated that "AHS will continue to consider all options available to meet our organizational needs including changes to staff mix, service redesign, including changes and repurposing of sites, relocating services, reducing or ceasing the provision of services."
Contracting out is not benign: it distorts the motivation of those providing health services and determining the allocation of resources in the public system. When integral parts of our health care system are contracted out, the public loses our right to see exactly what AHS pays for the services from private suppliers, or the added costs of contracting out surgeries, home care, and other essential services.
“This government has a plan, one that has been around for years. They will underfund and understaff our public services, including our public health care, until they reach their breaking point. Then, they will offer the private sector as a solution.” says Azocar.
Albertans have been through this before, under the austerity budgets and proposed “third-way” health care changes of former-Premier Ralph Klein. We have seen the long-term damage that cuts to public services can do. The loss of this many front-line staff will simply result in the decreased availability of timely, quality care for all Albertans – again. “We see no new ideas coming from this government, just rehashed and rephrased ideology in an ongoing quest to privatize and undermine our public health system,” says Azocar. “Reducing staffing, reducing capacity in our health care is simply a formula to shortchange and fail Albertans.”
Given that this government is so intent on continuing on this path towards privatization, we as Albertans are not prepared to take their major policy changes on faith alone. They must show us the math, present Albertans with a business plan that outlines how exactly it is that contracting out and privatizing our public health care services will actually save money. We need real transparency as to how that money is spent. Layoffs, contracting out, and privatization will be our new reality unless we are ready to fight back. We need to stand up, just as we have done before, and remind our government that our public system exists to provide health care to the Albertans who need it, not to present business opportunities for medical entrepreneurs. “Albertans elected this UCP government, however they were not given a blank cheque to do whatever they want,” stated Azocar.
We encourage Albertans to start calling their MLAs and Health Minister Tyler Shandro to let them know that health care and public sector cuts are not what Albertans voted for. Call Premier Kenney and hold him accountable to the ‘public health care guarantee’ that made to Albertans prior to forming government. We must continue to tell our representatives in no uncertain terms that we will not stand idly by while they undermine, underfund, undersupply, and understaff our health care.
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