Rallying together to stand up against security replacements

  • Mar. 26, 2010 12:00 p.m.

By Jasmine Franklin

Those concerned with a recent move by Alberta Health to replace in-hospital security staff will not keep quiet March 26 when rallying against the decision directly affecting Ponoka.

“This is very important to Ponoka,” said AUPE member, Laura Moench. “This affects everyone, not only the staff of the hospitals but also the public — we hope this rally will gain public support and people will take their concerns to MLA Ray Prins.”

The streets will be lined with members of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), United Nurses of Alberta (UNA), staff and anyone opposed to the recent decision issued by Alberta Health Services claiming it will save $6 million annually.

Beginning at 3:30 p.m. across from The Brick, anyone interested can join the rally and obtain information pamphlets regarding the issue. AUPE vice-president, Jason Heistad, is also scheduled to attend.

Earlier this month, Alberta Health decided that beginning May 1, six full-time security staff from the Centennial Centre and the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre would be replaced with “mobile patrol officers” and responding local RCMP.

Two officers each night will patrol the central Alberta region including Ponoka, Calgary and Edmonton rural areas.

Tony Weeks, executive director for protective and parking services with Alberta Health Services said the decision should not be looked at as a “cut” but rather a “re-deployment of resources.”

“We had to look through a provincial lens as well as the local lens,” Weeks said. “We have 133 health care sites in Alberta, and we were only reaching 58 of those sites. Without spending more money and trying to balance, this will allow us to reach all areas of the region.”

Weeks said that rather than having someone sit and waiting for an incident to happen, resources can be allocated more usefully with the new implementation.

“It is impossible to eliminate risk,” Weeks said. “A risk will always exist of an incident occurring. If (the new implementation) does not work out, we can always re-modify our resources and shift things around again.”

However others in the community feel the decision is still a dangerous one.

“This puts our emergency girls in a real ugly position at night,” said Leonard Icke, job steward for the Centennial Centre. “What if we have an emergency and all available RCMP are half way to Rimbey? In that delayed time of response, someone could be injured and the care of a patient might be compromised.”

Ponoka RCMP Sgt. Glenn Demaere said the new cuts will definitely add to the call volume at the detachment.

“Officers will have to perform a risk assessment,” Demaere said. “It will become a matter of responding to the call with the highest risk.”

Concern for STARS

It was confirmed by a Ponoka Hospital staff member who wishes to remain anonymous that during nights, security staff are responsible for clearing the landing pad for STARS (The Alberta Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society).

Another of Moench’s fears is that responsibilities such as those will fall upon the town ultimately creating extra work and extra dollars for taxpayer’s to pay.

“This is all about the safety and security of Ponoka,” Moench said. “We hope more than anything to gain support from this rally.”

Moench said the rally will begin at The Brick and will eventually travel through downtown.