United Nurses of Alberta has many unanswered questions about how the breakup of Alberta Health Services and the restructuring of the administration of public health care announced on November 8, 2023 by the provincial government will impact members and their jobs.
While UNA has long acknowledged genuine deficiencies in the management of health care services by AHS, we see nothing in what was announced today that will address the principal crisis that concerns most nurses – chronic understaffing and overwork caused by the shortage of nurses.
UNA aggressively seeking answers
UNA representatives are meeting with AHS representatives on Thursday, November 9, 2023 to discuss the impact of the restructuring for the first time.
UNA President Heather Smith and Director of Labour Relations David Harrigan are meeting with Minister of Health Adriana LaGrange and Deputy Minister of Health Andre Tremblay on Thursday, November 16, 2023 to discuss UNA’s concerns and aggressively seek answers to the many questions we have about these changes. We will communicate the answers to our questions and any further information we receive to our members.
Will the restructuring impact bargaining?
The uncertainty of the restructuring will undoubtably cause challenges in the upcoming round of provincial contract negotiations. UNA’s Provincial Demand Setting Meeting is still being held on November 21-23 in Edmonton. More information about how these changes will impact bargaining will be shared as we receive it.
Telephone town halls
The Alberta government is holding a series of telephone town halls for health care and mental health workers.
Health care professionals can participate in a telephone town hall:
- Thursday, November 9 | 10:30 am to 12 pm | Listen live
- Tuesday, November 14 | 11:30 am to 1 pm | Listen live
- Tuesday, November 14 | 6 to 7:30 pm | Listen live
To register to receive a phone call for the Health care professionals telephone town hall, please submit your phone number in this form.
Mental health and addiction health care professionals can participate in a telephone town hall:
- Wednesday, November 15 | 11:30 am to 12:30 pm | Listen live
What the government has announced
The Alberta government has announced that AHS will be restructured so its primary focus is acute care and continuing care. Other AHS delivery functions will move to the other newly created organizations listed below.
Covenant Health will continue to offer its services in the areas of acute care, continuing care and mental health and addiction.
UNA is seeking more information about what these changes mean for public health nurses, who were not mentioned by the government in the announcement.
Four new organizations will administer the health care system
The acute care provincial organization will oversee the delivery of hospital care, urgent care centres, cancer care, clinical operations, surgeries and emergency medical services. The organization will work directly with acute care providers including Alberta Health Services, Covenant Health and chartered surgical facilities.
The new provincial primary care organization will coordinate primary health care services and provide oversight. Primary health care includes all the services Albertans access to support their day-to-day health needs including visits with a family doctor or nurse practitioner, visits to Primary Care Networks, consultation with a specialist, preventative care and chronic disease management.
The new continuing care provincial organization will provide provincial oversight, coordination, service delivery, home care and community care. The Alberta government announced that AHS will be restructured so one of its two primary focuses will be continuing care, along with acute care.
The continuing care system provides Albertans with health, personal care and accommodation services to continue to live on their own, including rehabilitative or restorative care. These services and supports may be provided in different settings, including individuals’ homes, continuing care homes, supportive living accommodations and adult day programs.
UNA is seeking answers about what these changes mean for home care nurses.
Mental Health and Addiction
The Ministry of Mental Health and Addiction will begin to oversee the mental health and addiction system, including managing funding. This organization will be responsible for the delivery of services currently provided by AHS. It will continue to focus on recovery-oriented care for Albertans, delivering services that span prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery supports.
A new Alberta Health Services Board appointed
A new seven-member board will focus on acute care services in a province-wide context. This includes hospital care, urgent care centres, cancer care, clinical operations, surgeries and emergency medical services.
Former Conservative health minister Dr. Lyle Oberg is the chair of the new AHS Board. The appointment of an AHS Board chair with a history of leading private-hospital investments is troubling.
Other AHS Board members include Sandy Edmonstone, Paul George Haggis, Andre Tremblay, Evan Romanow, and Cynthia Farmer. An additional member will be named at a future date.
Dr. John Cowell’s role as AHS official administrator has ended and he will act as an advisor to the board until December 2023.
An Indigenous Advisory Council and 12 regional advisory councils will advise the new Primary Care, Continuing Care, Acute Care and Mental Health and Addiction organizations on local priorities and planning, and propose initiatives for their regions.
The government released the following timeline for the restructuring:
- The health care refocusing plan is introduced.
- The new Alberta Health Services board is appointed.
- Engagement sessions with AHS staff, health care unions, health associations and a wide range of stakeholders are scheduled throughout November.
- Transition boards are established for the Primary Care organization and Continuing Care organization.
- The Indigenous Advisory Council and 12 regional advisory councils are established to enhance local decision making.
- Continuing Care organization and Mental Health and Addiction organization are established.
- Primary Care organization and Acute Care organization are established.
- Ideas and feedback from health care workers and Albertans will be considered as further engagement opportunities begin.
- The remaining steps to ensure a successful transition will be finalized.
United Nurses of Alberta
- Massive AHS restructuring won’t fix nurse shortage, may make it worse (November 8, 2023)
Government of Alberta
- Website: Refocusing health care in Alberta
- Refocusing on patient-centred care (November 8, 2023)
- New AHS board to refocus on acute care delivery (November 8, 2023)