Tag Archives: ‘reducing’

Alberta Health Services reducing staff by 750 front-line nurses, union says

Alberta could lose more than 750 front-line nurses under a “massive downsizing” at Alberta Health Services (AHS), says the United Nurses of Alberta.

The nurses’ union said it learned of the planned cuts Friday morning after the lead negotiator for AHS, Raelene Fitz, called a meeting “unexpectedly” to inform the union that it plans to eliminate 500 full-time-equivalent (FTE) nursing positions over a three-year period beginning April 1, 2020.

Cutting 500 full-time-equivalent positions would mean layoffs for more than 750 front-line registered nurses because many nurses work part-time hours, the union said.

The plans were disclosed “in advance of bargaining for UNA’s 2020 provincial collective agreement so that the union would have time to absorb the information and respond accordingly,” the union said in a news release.

Alberta Health Services confirmed it shared information Friday with the UNA and two other unions — the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees and the Health Sciences Association of Alberta — “regarding potential impacts to unionized staff of measures to enhance the efficiency and performance of the health care system.”

Decisions are still being made, but AHS was required to disclose the measures as part of the collective bargaining process, it said in a statement.

‘Alternative service delivery’

“In many cases this restructuring could also include alternative service delivery models that help deliver services efficiently while keeping jobs in the Alberta economy,” AHS said.

UNA president Heather Smith had sought an immediate emergency meeting with Health Minister Tyler Shandro.

But Steve Buick, a spokesperson for Shandro, said the minister has no plans to meet with the unions because “that would be interference in bargaining that hasn’t even started yet.”

The government had promised “not to touch front-line health workers,” Smith said in a news release.

“We do not believe Albertans will support this plan, and they should tell the premier so.”

Premier Jason Kenney was at a business conference in Lake Louise on Friday, where reporters asked him about the cuts.

“We’ve always been clear that getting our province’s finances back in order will require some reduction in the size of the overall public service, and that we hope to achieve that primarily through attrition,” Kenney said. “My understanding is that’s the goal of AHS management.”

He said the recent Alberta budget increased the budget for health care by $ 150 million, “so there’s actually no overall reductions in the AHS budget. We’ve kept our commitment. But they do have to find efficiencies to deal with the growing cost demands that come from an aging population.”

Reductions through attrition

The nurses’ union released a copy of a letter sent by AHS to UNA Friday morning.

“While our budget has remained stable, Alberta’s growing and aging population means we need to be more efficient and focused in terms of health-care spending,” the letter says.

It says that before April 1, AHS will use an “attrition-only” approach to reducing staffing numbers.

It is looking at the possibility of contracting out home-care services including nursing, palliative and pediatric care. “This would impact approximately 60 FTE,” the letter says.

It says there are “no specific plans at this time” to close acute-care beds as continuing-care beds open, but that “this work may commence in 2020.”

AHS says in the letter it will consider “all options available” to meet organization needs in the future, including “changes to staff mix, service redesign including changes and repurposing of sites, relocating services, reducing or ceasing the provision of services.”

Smith told CBC News she is “incredibly disappointed” with the information relayed by AHS.

“People in this province believe the premier and the [United Conservative Party] were elected on the conditions of assuring the public that health and education front-line workers would not lose their jobs, and certainly this speaks something very different.”

Opposition NDP health critic David Shepherd said nurses have consistently talked about facilities being understaffed.

“When they need to take a sick day there is no one to cover,” Shepherd said. “They are under increasing pressure and … it is taking its toll on people’s health, both physical and mental.”

The position on staffing reductions outlined by AHS is only the beginning, Shepherd said Friday, speaking to reporters.

“They’re going to war with front-line health-care workers in the province of Alberta instead of providing them with support and the resources they need to address the growing pressures and workload,” he said.

AHS employs more than 26,000 RNs.

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HPV vaccine has major impact on reducing infections, cancer, study finds

Vaccination against the virus that causes almost all cervical cancer is having a major impact on stopping infections and should significantly reduce cases of the disease within a decade, researchers said on Wednesday. 

Presenting results of an international analysis covering 60 million people in high-income countries, scientists from Britain and Canada said they found “strong evidence” that vaccination against the human papillomavirus (HPV) works “to prevent cervical cancer in real-world settings.” 

“We’re seeing everything that we’d want to see. We’re seeing reductions in the key HPV infections that cause most cervical disease, and we’re seeing reductions in cervical disease,” said David Mesher, principal scientist at Public Health England, who worked on the research team.

Marc Brisson, a specialist in infectious disease health economics at Laval University who co-led the study, said the results suggested “we should be seeing substantial reductions in cervical cancer in the next 10 years.” 

HPV vaccines were first licensed in 2007 and have since been adopted in at least 100 countries worldwide. Britain’s GSK makes an HPV vaccine called Cervarix, which targets two strains of the virus, while Merck makes a rival shot, Gardasil, which targets nine strains.

In countries with HPV immunization programs, the vaccines are usually offered to girls before they become sexually active to protect against cervical and other HPV-related cancers. 

Infections reduced by 66 to 83 per cent

Brisson’s team gathered data on 60 million people over eight years from 65 separate studies conducted in 14 countries and pooled it to assess the vaccines’ impact. 

They found that the two HPV types that cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers — known as HPV 16 and HPV 18 — were significantly reduced after vaccination, with an 83 per cent decline in infections in girls aged 13 to 19 and 66 per cent drop in women aged 20 to 24 after five to eight years of vaccination. 

Figures released in February by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer showed an estimated 570,000 new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed worldwide in 2018, making it the fourth most common cancer in women globally.

Each year, more than 310,000 women die from cervical cancer, the vast majority of them in poorer countries where HPV immunization coverage is low or non-existent.

Brisson urged governments in the most-affected countries to take note: “Our results show the vaccines are working —  so I hope in the upcoming years we will …see rates of HPV vaccination increase in countries that need it most,” he said. 

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Every bit of exercise counts in reducing risk of early death: Study

This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of eclectic and under-the-radar health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. 

If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.


There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there about how much exercise is enough to stay healthy. Should you exercise three to four times a week, run a marathon or do a seven-minute workout with an app from the comforts of your living room?

It turns out they all work — even ditching the elevator for the stairwell — to help reduce your risk of disease and premature death, according to new research from the United States.

“Everything counts,” said William Kraus, a cardiologist at North Carolina’s Duke University School of Medicine and senior author of a new study published last week in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

The epidemiological study looked at the relative benefits of “bouted” versus sporadic moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) on the mortality of 4,840 people who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2003-06. 

Participants in the study wore accelerometers (pedometer equivalents) to measure their daily physical activity and exertion. The researchers determined 4,140 of them were still alive in 2011, while 700 had died.

Three measures of MVPA were counted: total minutes of activity, five-minutes or more of activity and 10 minutes or more of activity. And researchers analyzed mortality associations by quartiles for the three measures.

“Does it matter whether that total physical activity was in bouts or not bouts?” Kraus said. “And we found out it didn’t matter whether it was in bouts or not bouts. It’s the total physical activity that matters.”

The findings are good news for most Americans, who are becoming more sedentary and could break that up with short bouts of physical activity, he said.

“Take the stairs when there’s the opportunity. Walk to the coffee shop instead of taking the drive-thru. Because that will all help you prevent bad health outcomes,” he said. “Everything counts so take every opportunity.”

The study also found that participants who got less than 20 minutes of MVPA each day had the highest risk of death, while those who did 60 minutes a day cut their risk of death by more than half. Those who did at least 100 minutes a day cut their risk of mortality by 76 per cent, according to the study.

Current federal guidelines both in the U.S. and Canada recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise for adults.

Those guidelines recommend they should exercise in bouts of 10 minutes or more, but the study indicates this may not be necessary.

Kraus said, “It’s enough we hope to kill that part of the recommendation.”

To read the entire Second Opinion newsletter every Saturday morning, subscribe.

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