UCP moves ahead with health-sector privatization

By Catherine Griwkowsky October 14, 2020

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Health Services (AHS) president and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu unveiled a plan Tuesday that will eliminate 11,000 public-sector jobs.
The health-sector job cuts and privatization efforts were detailed in AHS’s long-awaited implementation strategy for undertaking recommendations in the government-commissioned EY Canada report, released earlier this year. 
While the EY report outlined $1.5 to $1.9 billion in potential annual savings via 57 recommendations and 72 “savings opportunities,” the AHS report suggested a smaller raft of cuts that will eventually add up to $600 million in savings per year.
Work currently done by approximately 11,000 AHS employees, including 9,700 general support services workers and 800 clinical positions, will be contracted out. Shandro told reporters those jobs won’t be eliminated — just shiftde to the private sector. 
There are also plans to introduce more “co-pay” and other fees in acute and long-term care.
“These plans are stupid,” NDP Leader Rachel Notley said.
She accused the UCP of pursuing an “extremist agenda” that will hit the rural areas of the province hardest. The UCP said it will not cut front-line workers, but Notley said she doesn’t have faith in that promise.
Privatization of services
The main cost-saver in AHS’s report is the outsourcing of 2,000 laboratory jobs, 4,000 housekeeping jobs, and 3,000 food-service jobs.
RFPs for lab and laundry service contracts will be issued by the end of the year. Food-service job changes aren’t slated to move ahead until 2023. 
While laundry services in Edmonton and Calgary are already privately run, about 400 public public-sector jobs in rural areas will be cut. 
In 2016, former NDP health minister Sarah Hoffman blocked AHS’ plan to outsource laundry services. However, since then neither the NDP or UCP government put up the $38 to $42 million needed to repair aging AHS-owned laundry facilities.
A strike is on the table, according to Alberta Union of Provincial Employees president Guy Smith, who said privatization will lead to job cuts and worse heath services. 
“We know the first thing private and for-profit companies do when they snatch up our jobs is cut wages, pensions and benefits for hardworking staff,” Smith said, adding that it’s “disingenuous” of Shandro to describe the contracting out as simply a change in employer (AUPE represents some of the support staff that will be affected). 
The Health Sciences Association of Alberta — which represents lab techs — said privatization could lead to poorer health outcomes and ultimately drive up costs. 

“Just days after again praising the work done by our lab professionals, the current health minister has targeted the very people he claims are protecting Albertans in his misguided drive to privatize health care,” said HSAA president Mike Parker. “Support workers are clearly front-line workers.”