What the AHS Review means for AUPE members and patient care
The UCP government spent $2-million for a private contractor to review Alberta Health Services.
That review has now been released and the results aren’t pretty. The report recommends up to $1.9-billion in cuts to health care and a massive privatization of services.
Here's a summary of how some of these recommendations would impact AUPE members, patient care, and working conditions on the front-lines.
Recommendation 1 – Asking Workers for Rollbacks
AHS should work with the unions and government to remove or revise collective agreement provisions that impede sustainability without providing any patient benefit. (AHS Review Summary Report, page 30.)
This recommendation means they would try to cut costs by cutting what’s in our collective agreements. That means job security, wages, and possibly other monetary items, like health spending accounts.
At the same time, page 30 of the report says the compensation level for AHS executives is “appropriate.” Is it really fair to ask front-line workers to take a rollback while executive salaries remain untouched?
Health Minister Tyler Shandro says this is a conversation best left for the bargaining table. AUPE members agree. But that won’t stop us from standing up for our jobs, benefits, and wages.
Recommendation 36 – Privatizing Non-Clinical Support Services
AHS should develop an enterprise-wide alternative service delivery strategy, and actively pursue opportunities to reduce costs, and improve services through outsourcing non-clinical support services. (AHS Review Summary Report, page 76.)
The report recommends privatizing everything that isn’t considered direct clinical care. This includes laundry and linen services, housekeeping, food services, non-emergency patient transportation, and security (AHS Review Summary Report, Table 21, page 77).
This would be a serious mistake. All conditions at health care facilities contribute to the quality of patient care. Staff do their best, but when services are privatized quality control falls when workers are forced to cut corners in order to make their bosses higher profits. This can lead to lower health standards for food and sharp objects buried in hastily cleaned linens.
This is also an example of how the UCP paid $2-million for a report to tell them what they wanted to hear, as Premier Kenney already promised to privatize laundry services during the 2019 election campaign.
Recommendation 21 – Selling off Capital Care and Carewest
AHS should reconsider LTC facility ownership in cases where private delivery may be more efficient and appropriate. (AHS Review Summary Report, page 53.)
Privatizing long-term care would be devastating. We know that health care is at its best when money and resources are devoted to patient care, not lining the pockets of whoever owns the facility.
But on page 54 of the report, Table 11 recommends the sale of Capital Care and Carewest to a third party provider. This would mean the privatization of 4,604 long-term care beds and all of AUPE Local 049.
Canadians are proud of the public Medicare system we’ve fought long and hard for. So why does the UCP government want to privatize so much of it?
Recommendation 20 – Downgrade many Long Term Care Beds into Designated Supported Living Beds
AHS should consider realigning bed resources within acute, LTC, designated supportive living (DSL) and community care, to support an immediate reduction in ALC, ensuring that patients are cared for in the most appropriate setting. (AHS Review Summary Report, Page 53.)
Specifically, Table 11 also suggests the government transition 1,300 long term care beds (LTC) into Designated Supported Living (DSL) beds. Compared to LTC beds, a lot of medications, supplies, and medical equipment aren’t covered when you’re in a DSL bed. This would have a huge impact on patients and their families.
Table 11 also recommends reducing staffing levels at long term care facilities… as if staff weren’t working short already.
The report even recommends increasing fees for LTC and DSL beds: increased fees that would add up to a total of $57-million for patients and their families (AHS Review Summary Report, Table 24, Page 83).
What the Government Should do Instead
AUPE members have firsthand experience with how AHS could improve working conditions and quality care for Albertans. Here are three things that would actually improve health care.
Stop Short Staffing
Hiring enough people to do the job is a smart investment. It also cuts down on the overtime pay that’s needed to be spent on workers who are forced to do more with less.
The AHS Review Summary Report even identifies this on page 25: the overtime rate has increased every year since 2015/2016, growing from 1.44% to 1.84% in 2018/19.
Keep Health Care Public
When health care is public, every dollar goes towards delivering quality care. When health care is private, a lot of those dollars instead line the owner’s pockets. Canadians decided decades ago that rich corporations should not profit off of health care. That’s not what’s best for patients or staff.
End the Corporate Tax Giveaways
Under the UCP, corporations pay a lower tax rate than Albertans. That’s not fair.
The AHS Review supposedly shows how the government could save $1.9-billion on healthcare, but the government has already blown their own bottom line with their $4.7-billion corporate tax giveaway. If the government cared about patients they would invest that money into quality public health care instead of looking for where to cut and privatize.