Order limiting long-term care staff to one site temporarily on hold

An order from Alberta's chief medical officer of health limiting health care workers to one long-term care site has been put on hold the day before it was to take effect. 

Measure to restrict movement of long-term staff aimed at preventing spread of COVID-19

COVID-19 has hit vulnerable people in long-term care particularly hard. (Interstid/Shutterstock)

An order from Alberta's chief medical officer of health limiting health care workers to one long-term care site has been put on hold one day before it was to take effect. 

"The order's original date for completion was April 23, 2020. However, that date was rescinded as of today," read a statement from Alberta Health Services provided to CBC News.

"Alberta Health has now provided additional guidance to AHS and we will move ahead with our planning for implementation.

"In the coming days, we will provide additional information to [United Nurses of Alberta] and we hope to work with the union as we proceed."

The statement came hours after the UNA filed a province-wide grievance against AHS alleging the health authority has provided no direction to staff on how they can comply with an order from the chief medical officer of health that takes effect tomorrow. 

The order from Dr. Deena Hinshaw limited health care staff who work at long-term care centres to one site. The measure was put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among vulnerable older people in long-term care. 

David Harrigan, labour relations director for the UNA, said the order applies to all facilities under the nursing home act and all auxiliary hospitals. The problem, he said, is that many acute care hospitals are also designated nursing homes or auxiliary hospitals. 

Harrigan says the union has been seeking answers from AHS and Alberta for days but haven't received an answer. 

He says members are calling the UNA worrying about what they should do tomorrow. He says many nurses work at different sites in the system. 

"The nurse who works in the emergency department at Leduc (General Hospital) is she permitted to work elsewhere or if she has another job, does she have to stop working there because technically Leduc is an auxiliary hospital," Harrigan said. 

The grievance alleges AHS is acting unfairly and unreasonably by not providing guidance and by "misapplying and misinterpreting" Hinshaw's order. 

The UNA is concerned that without clarity, the order could cause staffing shortages across the province. 

Hinshaw said in a news conference on Wednesday afternoon that the intent of her order was to prevent spread of COVID-19 among residents of long-term care and designated living sites.

"There are details that are still being worked out and so [I'm] hopeful we can find mutually agreeable solutions," she said. "But the importance of this order is to protect the most vulnerable."