Edmonton

AHS tightens belt with hiring, salary freeze

A hiring freeze has been issued by Alberta Health Service in an effort to cut costs.

Cost cutting will not impact patient care, AHS says

Vickie Kaminski, president and CEO of AHS, announced measures Thursday to save money at the provincial health board. (CBC )

A hiring freeze has been issued by Alberta Health Services in an effort to cut costs.

The freeze was announced Thursday, though it was put in place before Christmas.

In a news release, AHS president Vickie Kaminski said it is "fair and reasonable for AHS to control costs in light of the current financial position for the province."

Other cost-cutting measures include no salary increases in contract negotiations, a salary freeze for management, and ​tighter controls on severance payments, which totalled $28 million over three years. 

There are also smaller measures being taken to reduce costs, including monitoring cellphones to avoid roaming fees and a new "attendance awareness" program to cut back on the number of employee sick days, which AHS said costs about $190 million each year.

Premier Jim Prentice said he was concerned about "sloppiness" of AHS cellphone use. 

Hundreds of AHS cellphones had bills in excess of $500 a month, which added up to $835,000 over 18 months, mostly due to roaming charges. 

Prentice said if people don't know how to use a cellphone properly outside of Canada, they shouldn't have one.

“It's fair to say that there seem to be a lot of smartphones at AHS but a large number don't seem to have smart people attached to them," he said. 

"They seem to be bringing this under control, and they had better."

Kaminiski assured Albertans that cost cutting will not have an impact on patient care.

However, Heather Smith, president of the United Nurses of Alberta, said a hiring freeze will further compromise patient care. 

"The fact that we continually have overcapacity, and not just in the urban centres anymore, means that we have more patients and no staff increases and it's very difficult," Smith said. "It compromises the safety of patients right across the province." 

Kaminski also promised a review of the management structure at AHS. 

The province is reviewing expenditures after the price of oil dropped dramatically last year.

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