Alberta Health Services denies hiring freeze after unions raise alarm

More Alberta Health Services (AHS) controversy has come to light following a pay increase request from the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA).

After a concering memo was sent out to several health care unions, Alberta Health Services is now defending some new changes being made to their hiring process for select positions.

Last week, AHS and UNA conducted initial bargaining proposals, and during this time, the union requested a 25 per cent pay increase in one years time.

But then, this week, the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) along with several other organizations, received a memo, which HSAA vice president Leanne Alfaro, said made it seem like there was a hiring freeze.

“Today we started hearing from our members that it was impacting hiring immediately, up to the point of where interviews were in place to fill some of the many vacancies in health care staffing and for our frontline members, were being cancelled,” she explained.

AHS CEO Athana Mentzelopoulous denied in a Thursday press conference that this is the case.

READ MORE: Alberta healthcare workers raising concerns around hiring freeze

However, she explained new policies require that the CEO signs off on all new non-clinical job postings or interviews, and clinical positions will require the thumbs up from senior management.

Mentzelopoulous stresses this will not delay postings or impact patient care in any way.

“What we’re making sure is that for every position that we’re staffing, we’re taking a hard look, making sure that it’s oriented to where we have that need and that it’s the right job to fit that need,” she said.

Mentzelopoulous adds that changes to hiring policy is to help chip away at the organization’s deficit, and not to introduce an unnecessary bureaucratic process.

“I’m satisfied, at this point, that things are moving forward at an appropriate pace and those frontline jobs are being addressed as they should be and as I expect,” she said.

The size of the deficit is unknown, but she says it’s caused primarily by excessive overtime payments.

“We know that we need more healthcare workers on the frontlines providing patient care. That said, we also need to ensure we’re hiring into positions that are needed, with focus on areas that are short-staffed,” Mentzelopoulous said.

-With files from Cole Fortner

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