Calgary could face a shortage of nurses by 2012, documents suggest, just as the city's new billion-dollar hospital is set to open.


A looming nurse shortage in Calgary is causing concern. (CBC)

Internal Alberta Health Services documents obtained by the CBC predict a shortage of nearly 2,000 nurses in Calgary by next year, causing concern for the city's new $1.3-billion South Calgary Health Campus that is set to open in 2012.

Now, newly elected liberal leader Raj Sherman said building the hospital was not well thought out.

Sherman said the provincial Conservatives have dumped millions of dollars into new facilities without adding capacity in the system.

"Where are you going to get the operational funds and the staff for the new buildings?" he said. "All they are doing is shuffling the staff or shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic."

Indeed, Chris Eagle, chief executive of Alberta Health Services acknowledges there is a shortage of staff, but said AHS has a plan to deal with it.

"We will have to change our workforce mix because it will be changed for us," he said. "The aging and retirement of senior nurses will create just that change. We have to adapt and change for it and that is what we are doing."

But some fear that "new mix" means greater reliance on lesser-trained staff.

If the province doesn't change that mix, its own documents suggest Alberta will face a shortage of more than 5,000 nurses in five years.

Heather Smith of the United Nurses of Alberta said that without more nurses the new hospital would not add beds to the system.

"If we don't have the personnel, we'll have here what we already had in Calgary with expansions at the Peter Lougheed (Centre) and the Rockyview (General Hospital)," said Smith. "Other beds will have to close and staff will have to be re-located in order to open any beds or minimal beds at that site."