United Nurses of Alberta is concerned by plans by Alberta Health Services to eliminate the jobs of health professionals who provide mental health, psychological, physical therapy, speech pathology services through school boards as well as aid for hearing and vision impaired students and families.
Elimination by the Kenney Government of a grant that funded partnerships between AHS and regional school boards to provide services for students, families and teachers has the potential to do serious harm communities and families in need.
The Regional Collaboration Services Delivery grant, which was eliminated from the Kenney Government’s education funding starting on Sept. 1, helped coordinate and deliver services to children, families and communities.
The RCSD was typically used to fund the work of health care professionals and family support workers who were employed directly by partner organizations, including AHS.
In 17 districts across the province, the grants allowed a regional partnership among school authorities, AHS, Children’s Services, Community and Social Services and other community stakeholders to coordinate delivery of services by partners.
Neither the Education Department nor Alberta Health Services have made any comments since the cuts were announced. There is no acknowledgement on the province’s website describing the program that the funds have been cut and that the program will die in September.
AHS managers have instructed staff not to discuss job eliminations with families or school boards.
Only one district, the Central Alberta RCSD, has acknowledged the funding cut on its website, a short statement that says, “RCSD partnerships across the province are being eliminated by the provincial government as of September 1, 2020. As a result, the information on this page will no longer be valid. The website is being maintained for one year to allow partners to continue to access the resources.”
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange responded to questions in the Legislature about the cuts to the RCSD program on March 5 and March 27.
Without the RCSD grant, schools, communities and families will no longer automatically have access to the services. Most school boards cannot afford to offer any services.
At least 14 school boards are affected by the AHS decision. About 20 UNA members’ positions will be eliminated, although UNA says its affected members are covered until Sept. 1 by the no-layoff agreement AHS signed at the start of the COVID-19 crisis.