Leaked AHS newsletter outlines plans to close or downgrade 10 hospitals and shows lack of transparency by the Stelmach government.
Edmonton (18 May 2009) – Representatives of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE) will be seeking information this week on serious provincial proposals leaked last week on possible hospital closures.
They are scheduled to meet with Dr. Stephen Duckett, the new head of Alberta Health Services (AHS).
Albertans must begin demanding answers from the Stelmach government regarding its "surreptitious plans" to further cut hospital access," the union says.
It made the demand last week after the leak of a letter from AHS outlining its plans to downgrade or close 10 hospitals and numerous other health facilities across central Alberta.
"We're getting closer to the smoking gun," said HSAA president Elisabeth Ballermann. "This is only one of the province’s new five health 'zones', which obviously begs the question of what other facilities are on the chopping block."
In the March 31 newsletter to medical staff, AHS’s Brian Inglis outlined plans to downgrade hospitals in Rimbey, Ponoka, Lacombe, Innisfail, Castor, Coronation, Consort, Sundre, Three Hills, and Hanna to Urgent Care Centres. The correspondence also lists plans to close long-term care centres in Bentley, Trochu and Breton, along with health centres in Trochu and Castor.
"Central Alberta, and particularly the QE II corridor, have seen some of the most significant population growth patterns in the province," noted Ballermann. "Albertans deserve to know what health services they will have, today and in the future. They also deserve to know where those services will be available. We make decisions about where we live, and where we place businesses, in part based on what services and amenities are available."
The correspondence was sent out one week after Duckett arrived as the new CEO of AHS, suggesting that "these marching orders came directly from the Stelmach government and Health Minister Ron Liepert," said Ballermann.
"Once again, we see evidence of a plan to cut services, without any indication of enhancements elsewhere," she added.
"On its face, it appears to be yet another push to starve the public health care system, thereby undermining confidence in it. These closures would undoubtedly impact some of our members," she said. "Albertans have every right to be concerned about the future of their public health care system, and every right to demand clarity."
Stelmach dowplays leak
Following the leak, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach downplayed the letter, saying that the recommendations dated back to the former David Thompson Regional Health Authority and that the new AHS would make its own assessment of the situation.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE