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AHS cancels postings for management, non-clinical positions until end of March: memo

An emergency room sign is seen in an undated file photo. (CTV News) An emergency room sign is seen in an undated file photo. (CTV News)
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Alberta Health Services has implemented a partial hiring freeze until the end of the first quarter of 2024, according to an AHS memo released by the Opposition NDP.

Recruitment of management and non-union non-clinical support positions has been paused until March 31, with any exceptions requiring the approval of the AHS CEO, the memo says.

AHS says union non-clinical support work postings should also be cancelled.

The memo also dictates that any interviews scheduled for open positions should be cancelled.

Postings for clinically focused or clinical support positions can continue with the approval of a senior operating manager or senior program manager.

The pause is effective until March 31, and applies to AHS, Alberta Precision Labs, Carewest and Capital Care.

In the memo AHS said the measures are necessary to find additional cost savings.

"Significant restrictions on non-clinical hirings were put in place January 2024 and have had an impact; however, additional measures are required to aggressively address our current deficit position before the end of the 2023/24 fiscal year," the memo noted.

In a news conference on Thursday afternoon, AHS CEO Athana Mentzelopoulos defended the move, saying it would have no impact on patient care.

"I cannot stress enough that we are still actively recruiting for and hiring frontline health care positions. We know that we need more health-care workers on the frontlines providing patient care," she told reporters.

"That said, we also need to ensure we are hiring into positions that are needed.

"To that end, we are asking senior leaders to review clinical vacancies before they're filled."

Mentzelopoulos refused to disclose what kind of operating deficit the organization is facing.

"It's an estimate at this time. It would be irresponsible for me to share an estimated number. This will all be transparent when the fiscal year is complete. Right now, we are over our budget."

She added since the memo was released to AHS staff two days ago, 255 job offers have been extended to fill current vacancies.

The freeze comes after the UCP government announced changes to restructure Alberta's health-care system last fall.

The Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA), which represents thousands of health care workers in the province, expressed concerns about the pause on Thursday.

"We are very concerned that just a few months into the restructuring of health care, commitments made by this government to health-care professionals are not being honoured and addressing the staffing crisis is not the top priority," Leanne Alfaro of HSAA wrote.

"When the government announced their plans to restructure health care, they were clear with HSAA and Albertans that they shared our concerns about staffing levels. The minister of health committed to working on increasing the frontlines of health care and made assurances that they were not planning any job losses."

The opposition NDP also released a statement on the freeze.

"What this means is Albertans won’t get the health care they need, agonizingly long wait times won’t come down, and patients will continue to sit in overcrowded emergency rooms," NDP health critic Luanne Metz wrote.

"I am very worried about the safety of patients who are already in hospital. What are hospitals going to do when they don’t have enough staff to take care of patients on already crowded wards?"

AHS also announced on Wednesday that daily parking rates would be increasing throughout the province on April 1. 

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