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‘It’s already affecting the front lines’: new AHS hiring policy drawing criticism

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Health workers and their unions are criticizing what they’re referring to as an Alberta Health Services (AHS) hiring freeze, saying it’ll further damage an already-dysfunctional system of care. 

AHS announced Thursday that a “funding shortfall “is pushing in a new staffing policy. 

Until at least the end of the first quarter of 2024, recruitment of management and non-union, non-clinical support positions has been paused. Any exceptions must be run through the AHS CEO. 

And postings for clinically-focused or clinical support positions now require the approval of a senior operating manager or senior program manager.

The pause applies to AHS, Alberta Precision Labs, Carewest and Capital Care.

“It’s almost as if they’re trying to destroy the system,” United Nurses of Alberta’s David Harrigan said. “(This) is going to lead to more burnouts and staff leaving.“

In a news conference on Thursday afternoon, AHS CEO Athana Mentzelopoulos defended the move, promising it won’t impact the front lines. 

Critics and health care workers were quick to refute her claim. 

“We just filed a grievance 20 minutes ago over somebody who already had an interview, and they hadn’t heard back, so we contacted the employer, and said ‘who is the successful candidate?’” Harrigan said. “Their answer was, ‘because of this new policy, we’re not filling in that position.’

“So it’s already affecting the front lines.”

The union argues filling those open vacancies would lower skyrocketing overtime, and ultimately save AHS some money. They believe the opposite will happen under the new policy. 

MYSTERIOUS SHORTFALL

As of now, the public isn’t being told how much money AHS is trying to save, or why the province isn’t stepping in to financially help.

In fact, it’s unclear if AHS has even asked. 

“The optics aren’t great because we haven’t seen a clear, revealed plan,” Athabasca University political scientist Mark Crawford said. “Given the overall finances of the province, it seems a bit chaotic and not well planned out.”

CTV News reached out to the province and AHS for additional details Friday. 

Neither were able to provide any clarity.

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