157 elective surgeries postponed after job action at hospitals: AHS
CALGARY -- A total of 157 elective surgeries were suspended Monday, as laundry workers, housekeeping staff and dietary aids took to the street in front of hospitals across the province.
The majority of those were in Edmonton where 131 procedures were postponed. In Calgary, 21 patients were told they would have to wait longer for surgery, as well as five patients in the province's South zone.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) redeployed non-union staff, including managers in some cases, to cover for missing workers.
However in a press release Monday morning, AHS said, “as a direct result of this illegal job action, some surgeries and ambulatory care clinics are being postponed. Patients will be contacted directly if their appointments are affected. Visitors may be limited at some sites depending on the level of strike action.”
Heather Loughran is one of the patients whose elective surgery was cancelled.
She showed up Monday morning at the Peter Lougheed hospital expecting to have reconstructive surgery done on her shoulder.
She sat for hours in the waiting room before being told the surgery wasn’t going to happen.
“Nobody even came to let me know what was going on so I was thinking, what in the world? Then finally a nurse came in and said to me we just had a little meeting and she said all of the surgeries are now cancelled so just wait until your doctor comes in, he’ll let you know what’s happening after that,” said Loughran.
"I waited for another 45 minutes and nothing happened, so I just got up and left.”
Despite that, Loughran says she supports the workers on the picket Line.
“I am fully supportive of them I feel really bad that this is happening during a pandemic it’s really sad," she said.
Joining AUPE members on the picket line at the Peter Lougheed hospital was Dr. Keith Bisby. The family physician agrees patient care will suffer as a result of the strike and places the blame squarely on the Alberta government.
“I think the suffering will be less than the long-term effect if the government is allowed to go ahead (with the cuts)," he said.
"I think the crux of the question really is, the government has the power to decide how much Albertans suffer with their healthcare. They are the ones that have all of the decision making power to address these concerns to be at the table to negotiate and make changes to healthcare that are evidence-based.”
AUPE vice-president Bobby-Joe Borodey says her members are concerned for patients in the hospital and no one should go without urgent care as a result of the walkout.
“While we are out here, we are definitely prepared to preserve life and limb in the hospital. If AHS lets us know that they need a certain number of staff members to go in to fulfill those duties," said Borodey.
"We will be in there, no one will leave a patient if it's critical. So we're here to protect all Albertans including those that need us right now.”
Loughran says she was told if the walkout continues past Monday, more surgeries may need to be cancelled. She was not given a new date for her postponed shoulder surgery.
AUPE staff walked off the job at 27 different health care facilities in Alberta on Monday, protesting a plan to lay off 11,000 workers in a move toward privatizing many heath-care jobs in the province.