Calgary

End of special paid leave for nurses amid pandemic 'mind boggling,' union official says

The United Nurses of Alberta is calling on AHS to reinstate special paid leave for health-care workers forced to self isolate due to COVID-19.

'Putting in a disincentive for people to self-report is the absolute worst thing'

Health-care workers put on protective equipment at a COVID-19 testing facility in Alberta. The United Nurses of Alberta is calling on AHS to reinstate special paid leave for health-care workers forced to self isolate due to COVID-19. (Alberta Health Services)

The United Nurses of Alberta is calling on AHS to reinstate special paid leave for health-care workers forced to self isolate due to COVID-19.

The union's labour relations director, David Harrigan, says it's a big problem for nurses at a time when the Foothills hospital in Calgary is battling two COVID-19 outbreaks and almost 90 staff members at the hospital are now having to self-isolate.

"They either have to use their sick leave if they're a regular employee, so they're burning through their sick leave, or the alternative, if they're a casual employee, they're not entitled to any sick leave — so it's time without pay," he said.

AHS had been providing the special paid leave for staff forced to self-isolate due to COVID-19, but that temporary program was cancelled on July 6.

AHS spokesperson James Wood said in an emailed statement that all staff directed to self-isolate due to COVID-19 are provided sick leave, salary continuance or short term disability if eligible under their terms of employment or collective agreement.

"With the end of the province-wide public health emergency and the COVID-19 pandemic now extending into the future, AHS reverted to applying the terms and conditions of the collective agreements that have been jointly negotiated with our unions," he said.

Harrigan said he worries the change may push some health-care workers to go to work when they're not well.

"Putting in a disincentive for people to self-report is the absolute worst thing that could possibly be done," he said. "It's just mind boggling."

Wood said AHS continues to promote awareness that staff members need to stay home when they're sick.

With files from Jennifer Lee

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