Stettler health-care workers fear loss of jobs

Workers at care homes in the Stettler area say their jobs will be in jeopardy when the Points West Living seniors’ complex opens

Workers at care homes in the Stettler area say their jobs will be in jeopardy when the Points West Living seniors’ complex opens this spring to provide seniors supportive living.

“We have no job security anymore, and (would get only) 14 days’ notice before we lose our jobs,” said Hanna Jilek, who’s employed at Heritage House as a nurse’s aide.

Last week, she attended a local meeting of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE).

She said Alberta Health Services’ plans to close Pine Ridge Lodge leaves 54 jobs at stake, and though Heritage House would remain open, employees with seniority could “bump” those with fewer years on the job in other similar facilities in a 100-kilometre radius.

The AUPE is waiting for word from Alberta Health about the possible loss of jobs as a result of a provincial restructuring.

“This will result in some long-term-care staffing changes at the Stettler Hospital and Care Centre,” Heather Kipling, communications officer for AHS, said this week.

“Over the coming months, we will be working directly with staff who may be affected, in accordance with their respective collective agreements.”

When the 88 new AHS-funded supportive living beds open at Points West Living in Stettler this summer, AHS plans to decommission 39 of the 89 long-term-care beds at the Stettler hospital.

A total of 50 beds would remain open “for those who need them — now and into the future,” Kipling said.

AUPE leadership and local members were still waiting for official word about the impact of the Alberta Health Services changes.

“AHS hasn’t given any notice of termination of jobs,” said Mark Wells, provincial spokesman for AUPE.

“We don’t know how many jobs, what positions, and who will be affected.”

AUPE continues to back its workers as the transition progresses through the early stages.

“Our purpose is to support our members and make sure they know what their rights are under the collective agreement,” Wells said.

With more supportive-living facilities going up in the province, the union says it’s frustrated that the private-sector services are costing jobs and taxpayers.

“Generally, we see these facilities in too many small communities,” Wells said.

“It’s essential a subsidy of the private sector by taxpayers to the tune of $600 million since 1999.”

Jilek and others are concerned for their jobs and overall health-care services in Stettler.

“We were told by union officials to update our resumes and find new jobs,” she said.

After AHS published information about the transitions to supportive living, she was upset the provincial advertisements didn’t explain the impact on jobs.

“Nobody mentioned that we are losing in order to gain,” Jilek said.

“We want to bring more awareness, because it’s a huge problem. If more people talk about it, the more chance we might have to fight it off.”

Others are also stepping forward.

“It seems that the information printed and being told to families and communities is misleading,” said a nurses’ aide at Pine Ridge.

“This change negatively affects the Stettler hospital staff, anyone working for AHS within 100 kilometres, families of these residents, and of course, most importantly our residents.

“This change is not best for everyone.”

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