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It’s too soon to end the Single-Site Order

AUPE calls for further consultations as Omicron spreads

Jan 17, 2022

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As Omicron spreads like wildfire throughout Alberta, the province’s largest union is calling for the government to temporarily halt its plan to remove an important public health order.

The Single-Site Order was implemented in the early stages of the pandemic. It restricted employees in various health-care settings, especially continuing-care homes, to work in a single workplace in order to prevent cross-contamination of cases between sites. In early December 2021, the province announced its intention to phase out the order and allow workers to return to the pre-pandemic system of working at multiple care homes. Prior to that announcement, the government had engaged in consultations with unions and other stakeholders. Those consultations ended in November 2021.

“We said from the beginning that the government was moving too fast on removing the Order,” says Bonnie Gostola, a vice-president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. “Now we have exponential case growth and the most contagious variant yet. Workers’ and residents’ lives are in danger. Dr. Hinshaw needs to come back to the table and figure out a plan with healthcare workers to keep staff and residents safe.”

According to the government’s phase-out plan, the Order will be fully removed by Feb. 16. The government has not signaled any intention to change its plan as Omicron cases have exploded across the province, bringing daily case counts to unprecedented highs and once-again threatening the healthcare system’s capacity.

For Gostola, the Single-Site Order was an imperfect but important measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in continuing care homes. “We saw what happened in other jurisdictions, where the virus spread from home to home rapidly, and many vulnerable people got sick and died. We wanted to avoid that, and the Single-Site Order helped avoid the worst.”

“The spread of COVID-19 today is worse than it has ever been in Alberta,” Gostola says. “Now is not the time to remove public health orders that protect the most vulnerable Albertans.”

Gostola says that the union is calling for the government to re-enter into consultations with all stakeholders. “We need to have a real dialogue about where to go from here—not a pre-scripted ‘consultation’ that lets the government check a box before they carry out a reckless plan.”

AUPE echoes previous statements by the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA), condemning Dr. Hinshaw’s decision to continue consultations with health-care employers, but not with staff representatives. “Workers on the front lines know best how to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Gostola says. “Their on-the-ground expertise is the most valuable resource to stop the spread.”

“From the beginning, unions have played an important role in creating and maintaining the Order,” Gostola says. “There is no reason from Dr. Hinshaw to cut workers out of the picture at this critical stage.”

“It’s time to put the brakes on the phase-out,” Gostola says. “People’s lives are on the line. We can’t cover our eyes and pretend that the virus has gone away—we need a real plan to protect Albertans. And for that plan to be effective, workers need to be at the table to draft it.”


Bonnie Gostola is available for media requests. Contact Jon Milton, Communications Officer, at 

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