'Historic investments': Alberta's healthcare sector anxiously await Thursday budget
EDMONTON -- Alberta healthcare advocates are anxiously awaiting Thursday's budget. After a year of dealing with COVID-19 patients in large numbers, for people in the sector, the pandemic still isn't the only source of stress.
"Everybody has been waiting for their pink slips," Friends of Medicare executive director Sandra Azocar told CTV News Edmonton.
Azocar is worried that Thursday's provincial budget will see the UCP government proceed with plans to privatize lab services as well as food, laundry, housekeeping and protective services.
She says expanding the public system is critical, especially now.
"We don’t want to see an attack on folks that have been continuing to take care of us for this past year," said Azocar.
Premier Jason Kenney has promised Albertans will see a historic investment in healthcare in Thursday’s budget.
In a news release sent out Wednesday, Kenney said his government is "laser-focused" on protecting lives and livelihoods.
"I’m looking forward to debating the upcoming budget that supports the healthcare system with historic investments while creating thousands of new jobs and laying the foundation for a strong economic recovery.”
But, Azocar still has her worries.
"I’m not optimistic that we will see any kind of shift in the path that this government has chosen to take and that privatization by stealth will continue."
The United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) share her concerns.
"This is a time to expand resources in health care and not misuse public dollars by looking at private delivery," UNA president Heather Smith told CTV News Edmonton.
Smith says Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro has assured her no nurses will be laid off during the pandemic. With nothing in writing the UNA president hopes Shandro keeps his word.
"We do have extended our collective agreement provisions until March 31st and those provisions a no voluntary reduction in (full-time equivalent) or no layoff clause," she said.
Meanwhile, Azocar says transparency and a true commitment to health care is the Friends of Medicare's main priority, adding a strong, well-funded public system is key now and after the pandemic.
"We want to see that our frontline workers don’t go from heroes to zeros and be walked out the door once this pandemic is over."