Calgary

Alberta health-care workers can now be redeployed to nursing homes to battle COVID-19

A new agreement will pave the way for Alberta health-care workers from hospitals and other public facilities to be sent in to continuing care facilities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Agreement was signed Friday by Alberta's 3 main health unions and AHS

A new agreement signed by Alberta Health Services and Alberta's three main healthcare unions will allow health-care workers to be redeployed into nursing homes, like the McKenzie Towne continuing care centre, which was rocked hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

A new agreement will pave the way for Alberta health-care workers from hospitals and other public facilities to be sent into continuing care facilities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some nursing homes have been struggling to find enough staff while residents and staff fall ill. The new agreement, signed Friday by Alberta's three main health-care unions and Alberta Health Services, is designed to meet that need.

"This is about planning, preparation and flexibility," said Dr. Mark Joffe, vice-president and medical director with AHS at Friday's daily press briefing. "I'm delighted we were able to reach an agreement."

The outbreak will allow nurses, health-care aides and cleaning staff to be sent into private continuing care centres as needed.

Guy Smith — president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees — said the agreement allows health-care workers to be on the frontlines of the pandemic.

"The health and safety and well-being of Albertans, especially vulnerable Albertans in these centres, is a priority," Smith said. "There is a need to redeploy staff who currently work with AHS into those crucial areas."

The agreement also includes a provision that stipulates that AHS must ask for volunteers before it assigns staff to be redeployed.

"This is a proactive and precautionary step … I think it's really important to be prepared," said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health during Friday's update. "COVID-19 will be with us for many months to come, and we need to be doing work in advance to prepare for possibilities."

With files from Jennifer Lee

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