Thousands of Alberta Health Services jobs to be cut in effort to save $600M annually

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the province plans to cut thousands of Alberta Health Services jobs in an effort to save hundreds of millions of dollars.

Shandro announced Tuesday morning that upwards of 11,000 individuals will be affected by the layoffs, which are hoped to result in savings of $600 million per year once implemented.

Shandro said no front-line physician or nurse positions to be lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Premier Kenney and I have been clear, there can be no job losses for nurses or front-line clinical staff during the pandemic,” Shandro said.

“There will be no job loses for nurses or front-line clinical staff.”

Read more: Alberta Health Services review aimed at finding savings, improving performance

Shandro said about 9,700 jobs will be lost through outsourcing support services such as laundry and community lab services. He said about 68 per cent of laundry services in the province — from Edmonton and Calgary — are already outsourced.

AHS will also develop business cases for outsourcing both environmental and food preparation services in 2022 and 2023.

Shandro said AHS has been asked to eliminate 100 management positions “at a minimum.” A full review of senior AHS executives is to be completed before the end of the fiscal year, he added.

“Out of 110,000 employees, about three per cent of them — 3,300 — are management,” Shandro said.

“The review of compensation would be for all the 3,300 management positions… including the 68 senior leaders and including the 14 on the executive team.”

Read more: Alberta government nixes AHS review recommendation to close 5 rural hospitals, Edmonton trauma centre

The moves announced Tuesday come following recommendations made in an Ernst & Young report, which was released by the health minister in February. The $2-million report was ordered by Shandro last summer to find efficiencies while not compromising care.

There were 57 recommendations and 72 savings opportunities identified in the review to improve the quality and long-term sustainability of health services, the government said.

Following the release of the report, AHS was asked to create both a short-term and long-term implementation plan. The moves announced Tuesday are part of the long-term plan which is expected to be implemented over the next three years.

Shandro said AHS will also streamline non-clinical and back office operations, including optimizing distribution and inventory management and strengthening staff scheduling and overtime management systems.

“AHS is committed to respecting all collective agreement provisions and other employment terms and conditions and will be working to minimize job losses in these areas,” Shandro said.

A number of positions will be lost through attrition over the next few years, according to AHS president and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu.

“We will move ahead with many of the initiatives in the review at a pace that is respectful of the current situation and also ensures that our front-line services are supported,” Yiu said.

“We are committed to high-quality patient care. We will continue to be a learning organization. We will continue to assess and reassess plans as needed. We will make sure that changes are done with a long view of a 10-year vision for health care in Alberta. We will ensure that local decision making and local input is embedded in our work. We will respect and support employees and physicians through any changes. We will make sure that change supports our patient-first strategy and that patients are engaged through the continued planning and implementation work.”

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees represents about 35,000 AHS employees. Union president Guy Smith said Shandro’s “job-killing plan” attacks health-care heroes during a pandemic.

“This brutal attack on jobs is going to hurt working Albertans and small communities across the province. This government kicks Albertans when they’re down, exploiting a pandemic that they’re failing to manage by killing jobs and endangering health care at the exact moment we need it most.”

In total, Shandro said about 11,000 individuals will be affected by the cuts. Labour costs make up about 70 per cent of AHS’ total expenses, according to Shandro.

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