Opposition Health Critic David Swann believes that the Alberta government’s health care planning has fallen short yet again. He says the PCs spent billions on shiny new hospitals and clinics but failed to train enough nurses, doctors and allied health professionals to staff them.
Swann was responding to reports that Alberta Health Services is predicting a shortage of thousands of nurses in just a few months—a shortage he claims they knew was coming several years ago.
“What’s the point of spending billions on buildings that will sit empty for lack of people to work in them?” inquires Swann. “Hospitals don’t treat patients; people do, people like nurses, doctors, paramedics and lab technicians.”
Liberal Seniors and Community Supports Critic Bridget Pastoor, a former nurse, shares concerns that the government might try to compensate for the shortage of nurses by substituting less-trained staff.
“I have plenty of respect for LPNs,” says Pastoor. “They’re great when they’re placed in an appropriate role. But they’re absolutely not a replacement for RNs. RNs have much deeper and broader training; they hold four-year university degrees and their scope of practice is more extensive. In many ways, RNs are the backbone of public health care.”
AHS announced in July it was hiring hundreds of new nurses in Alberta, at least 100 in Calgary alone. The United Nurses of Alberta estimates the province has been short 1,500 to 2,000 nurses for the last four to five years.
Swann says the Alberta Liberal health policy includes a step-by-step plan to train and attract the thousands of new nurses, doctors and allied health professionals. The plan includes, but is not limited to the following:
- Incentives to attract family doctors and other health professionals to rural Alberta
- The expansion of post-secondary institutions to train health care professionals
- More residencies and training for international medical graduates