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EDMONTON - The New Democrats say Alberta Health Services is planning to cut more than 177 nursing jobs across the province.
AHS documents released by the NDP dated Nov. 4 suggest most of the people affected would be registered nurses who work in hospitals.
"This document that we received shows cuts in all major hospitals in all cities across the province," New Democrat health critic David Eggen said Thursday.
He said such cuts would reduce the level of care people receive in the health system, especially in hospitals, and that more cuts are being planned.
Eggen said it appears the government wants to replace registered nurses with licensed practical nurses and nurse's aides, who both earn less money.
"These nurses provide the backbone to care and reducing nursing positions on the wards means lower quality care and it means that we will end up in that tight spot again where we will be short of nurses in the future," he said.
Alberta Health Minister Fred Horne said the NDP's claim of nursing job cuts is wrong.
He said Alberta Health Services is trying to hire more full-time nurses.
But Horne said union contracts stipulate that a part-time nurse must be laid off if AHS wants to change a position to full time.
"AHS tells me that jobs will be available for all nurses currently in the system and as of today has 300 job postings for additional nurses," Horne said.
Premier Alison Redford said the province wants more nurses to work at new facilities, such as family care clinics.
Redford said the health system is being restructured to run more effectively.
"That means that as we restructure and we take a look at what health-care administration looks like, that there may be people that are asked to take on new responsibilities," Redford said. "Change is tough for people."
The AHS documents mention the United Nurses of Alberta, the union that represents registered nurses.
The union is in contract talks with AHS.
Earlier this month the nurses union accused AHS of planning to eliminate hundreds of nursing jobs at 30 work sites across Alberta.
The union has also complained about an AHS ad campaign launched last month that says the province wants to hire more full-time nurses.
The union says the ads are misleading, and only about one third of registered nurse job postings over the past year have been for full-time positions.
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