EDMONTON -- The Alberta NDP is calling for an emergency debate as the UCP government plans to cut thousands of health care positions in the next several years.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley and Health Critic David Shepherd spoke alongside unionized health care workers at a news conference Monday.

Shepherd said Health Minister Tyler Shandro gave no indication the government was planning on cutting more than 5,000 front-line jobs in health care services.

"This past spring, [Premier Jason Kenney] signed a giant placard saying that he would not endanger health care in the province of Alberta," said Shepherd. "Jason Kenney lied to Albertans, he's breaking his promise."

Last week, unions including United Nurses of Alberta (UNA), the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) said they were all notified of impending cuts ahead of wage arbitration.

UNA expects 500 full-time equivalent positions will be lost through attrition, AUPE says some 5,900 full-time government and health care jobs may be lost by the end of the 2022-23 fiscal year and HSAA says as many as 850 full-time positions will be cut.

The cuts have prompted widespread condemnation from health care workers including doctors from the Alberta Medical Association who have called the cuts "deeply concerning."

The NDP reiterated its call for an emergency debate in the legislature over the UCP's plan to eliminate the positions, saying patient care will "suffer severely" as a result.

"They are also looking to potentially privatize ambulance services, they're moving toward greater privatization, in fact putting out a request for proposals on lab services," said Shepherd. "This government is clearly intent on bringing American-style health care to Alberta."

AUPE president Guy Smith later spoke out about the proposed cuts, saying members have been preparing for the possibility for months.

"We have been preparing, rallying and picketing across the province, and building our capacity to stand strong and fight back," he said in a news release.

He said the AUPE provincial executive and local chairs will meet next week to determine the union's response.