Calgary palliative home care ‘decimated,’ says nurses union

Calgary cuts came Monday without warning

Half of Calgary’s palliative home care nurses learned Monday they were being laid off and that the level of care offered to clients in the end stages of life would be significantly reduced.

Jacki Capper, president of local 211 of the United Nurses of Alberta, confirmed 24 of about 50 registered nurses in the program were affected by Monday’s announcement, which she said came without warning.

“They’re devastated,” Capper said. “Some nurses have 20-plus to 30 years experience and they were just thrown away. That’s how they feel.”

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Capper said the cuts are equivalent to seven full-time positions being eliminated.

She said she expected the remaining staff to see increased caseloads.

Union president Heather Smith, who is out of country, called the layoffs “worrisome.”

Smith said that before she left, she had sent a letter to Dr. Chris Eagle, CEO of Alberta Health Services, asking for an itemized accounting of all the layoffs, position eliminations and previously posted positions that would now be unfilled.

She added she wanted to know how these cuts would translate into cost savings.

“This started almost a month ago. A few positions here, a few positions there,” Smith said.

She said there have also been cuts at acute care and long-term care facilities.

“Certainly, this would appear to be a decimation of palliative care.”

No one at Alberta Health Services was available for comment late Monday.

News of the layoffs came a week after 21 Calgary front-line nurses in after-hours home care and 19 Calgary registered nurses working in chronic disease management were cut during Nursing Week.

Capper said she’s concerned the level of care in those areas could also suffer in light of the cuts.

She said Alberta Health Services has assured nurses who’ve been laid off that they will be able to apply for other nursing positions in other areas.

“But nursing, it’s always passion-based. The nurse getting a position-elimination notice in the work she’s specialized in or focused her education on is actually a devastation.”

The cuts have hurt the entire home care community as a whole, of which about 400 nurses are members, Capper said.

“The focus seems to be to get everyone (out of a hospital) and into a home, and home care will take care of them,” she said. “But resources are being pulled from home care.”

Capper said she’s bracing for more cuts.