Alberta NDP slams United Conservative Party for health centre closures

Alberta’s Opposition NDP is criticizing the governing United Conservative Party after Alberta Health Services reported 32 communities across the province are experiencing temporary bed and space reductions due to staff shortages.

Recent data from AHS showed most of the reductions happened in rural communities such as Peace River, Bassano and Rocky Mountain House. Calgary and Airdrie are also experiencing temporary reductions and closures.

An Alberta Health Services map showing temporary bed or space reduction (yellow indicators) as of Aug. 9, 2022. Credit: Alberta Health Services

In recent months, AHS has regularly issued news releases announcing facilities will experience closures or no physician coverage.

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Read more: High demand led to cutting back Calgary urgent care hours: AHS

Labour critic Christina Grey said the root of the problem was the UCP’s attack on frontline health-care workers and its push to privatize services.

“We’ve never seen closures in 30 communities across Alberta before. We have never seen the numbers that we are seeing in the AHS data coming out before,” Grey said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“They tore up contracts and threatened workers with pay cuts before and during a global pandemic. They chased family doctors out of the province, leaving hundreds of thousands of Albertans with nowhere to go except for emergency rooms.”

Grey’s comments come after AHS directed all Edmonton zone hospitals to take one patient over capacity last Thursday, forcing health-care workers to provide treatment in hallways.

Read more: ‘They’ve thrown excuses’: Alberta health experts concerned over hallway medicine directive

At the time, AHS said the directive was a short-term effort to support emergency department volumes.

Steve Buick, press secretary for Health Minister Jason Copping, said summer long weekends are “historically often very busy times” and hospitals are already strained by staff absences due to the pandemic.

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However, Buick said similar problems exist across Canada.

“The strains are similar in every province and other countries regardless of political stripe,” he said in an emailed statement last Thursday.

Read more: Data shows Alberta’s emergency medical services in crisis: NDP

Grey disagreed with Buick and said Alberta’s situation is unique compared to the rest of the country.

She also said health-care workers feel disrespected, even after Alberta Health and the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) ratified a new collective agreement.

“Front-line workers in all types of roles within our health-care system continue to use the language that they feel disrespected, that they feel taken advantage of and neglected by the UCP government,” Grey said.

Read more: AHS employees represented by HSAA approve contract with 4.25% pay hike over 4 years

770 CHQR has reached out to Alberta’s Ministry of Health with a request for comment. This story will be updated if one is received.

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