Shandro says patients can still get care amid cries over staff shortages and bed closures in Alberta

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Despite concerns over temporary bed closures across Alberta, Health Minister Tyler Shandro says patients can still get care and the provincial health authority is working to address staff shortages.

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Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton has been forced to temporarily close six of its emergency department beds as it deals with a staffing shortage after multiple rural hospitals around the province temporarily closed beds or emergency room services due to a lack of doctors and nurses in recent months.

“People who need emergency care can and should continue to go to the Royal Alex – the folks there are able to still continue to make sure people can get the critical care that they need,” Shandro said.

United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) president Heather Smith said the UNA has been told at least 12 beds at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton have also been closed and warned that unfilled vacancies and a stretched system will inevitably lead to reductions in care.

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“We’re approaching an inferno here,” said Smith Monday.

Shandro said the staffing shortages were expected as the province reopens.

“We knew that coming into Stage 3, and coming into the easing of restrictions, we’re still going to have pressures with staffing throughout the province this summer. AHS is continuing to do amazing work. This is the healthcare system in Alberta responding to the most significant healthcare crisis in the last 100 years,” he said.

The staffing squeeze comes after the latest proposed collective agreement for nurses included a three per cent wage rollback.

When asked how he would respond to workers facing burnout and potential wage cuts at the same time, Shandro said it remains to be seen what comes out of negotiations.

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“Those are great arguments for the Union to represent their members at the negotiating table,” said Shandro, who added the talks and labour pressures on the system are two different issues.

Smith said uncertainty about wage negotiations is leading to added stress and frustration for nurses who are already exhausted from working throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shandro made the comments from Calgary via a virtual signing ceremony renewing a health services agreement for border city Lloydminster with Saskatchewan Mental Health and Addictions, Seniors and Rural and Remote Health Minister Everett Hindley.

The previous agreement, signed in 2014, expired in 2019. Under the new agreement, both provinces agreed to collaborate on planning and funding health services in the Lloydminster area and improve things like dual physician licensing and accessing patient records on both sides of the border.

More to come…

lijohnson@postmedia.com

twitter.com/reportrix

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