Nurse practitioners at urgent care centres in southern Alberta have been told they are being laid off because of upcoming budget pressures.

"The amount of savings required for this upcoming budget year necessitate some very strong measures to meet the targets — things we do not necessarily want to do but quite frankly need to do to meet the requirements," read a memo sent to urgent care staff by Barb Shellian, the director of Bow Valley Community and Rural Health.

"One of the measures that will be implemented for urgent care is the elimination of the nurse practitioner positions for Cochrane and Airdrie."

Alberta's deputy minister says it's premature to comment on the matter.

"To speculate that current decisions are made on the basis of the new budget would be simply erroneous because no one knows what the new budget is going to look like until it is actually tabled in the legislature," said Thomas Lukaszuk.

Alberta's budget is expected to be tabled on March 7.

Dr. Julian Kyne, medical director at Airdrie Regional Health Centre’s urgent care centre, was told on Friday the nurse practitioner positions would be cut at the end of March.

"This came about without any prior knowledge of myself or any of the other physicians," Kyne said, adding the nurse practitioners heard about the layoffs on Monday.

Airdrie mayor to fight layoffs

Kyne says the layoffs equates to one third of the staff at the centre.

"Nurse practitioners have proven their value well and above what they are paid so by any stretch they're an absolute bargain," Kyne said.

He believes they will be replaced by doctors, which he says cost more.

According to the Nurse Practitioner Association of Alberta, a doctor earns about $1,800 per shift while a nurse practitioner can earn between $324.71 to $488.50 per shift.

Peter Brown, mayor of Airdrie, says it is unacceptable and is calling the health minister to fight the cuts.

"Hopefully common sense will prevail and we will have another solution to the challenge that they're facing because I realize it's a significant challenge again, cutting back on our health care that's currently provided isn't the answer to the situation," Brown said.

In an email late Tuesday afternoon, Alberta Health Services says a final decision has not been made and they will get feedback from medical staff before making a decision.

Memo from AHS: