About 200 people came out to a rally to support nurses at the Alberta Legislature Building Saturday afternoon. Similar rallies were also held in Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat.
Heather Smith, president of United Nurses of Alberta, said the event was organized as part of National Nurses Week to thank nurses for their ongoing work throughout the pandemic.
But Smith said there were other reasons for the rallies as well — she's worried about increasing privatization and underfunding of public health care.
"What we need is money and political will to invest in public health care," Smith said. "We need to move forward with things like pharmacare and real reforms to our long term care system."
Sue Reid, a retired anesthesiologist who worked in Edmonton for 30 years, said she showed up to honour nurses and also to advocate for "publicly funded, publicly delivered health care."
Reid spoke at the rally as a member of Canadian Doctors for Medicare, a group that aims to improve publicly-funded universal health care.
Earlier this year, the Alberta government proposed using public funds for surgeries at private clinics to clear surgery backlogs.
Reid said she worries the move could potentially worsen public surgical services.
"You steal people from the public hospital system and put them in the private system and there's no surplus," she said. "So if you're an anesthetist working in the private OR [operating room], then the one public OR is closed."
Her concerns were echoed by Chad Ohman, technical producer at ProtectOurProvince Alberta.
"We're seeing that with Alberta Precision Laboratories being privatized over to Dynalife," Ohman said.
Dynalife Medical Labs was set to take over a majority of community lab services on July 1, but the move has been delayed until Dec. 5 because of operational issues.
For Smith, these issues demonstrate a greater need for more public health funding from both the provincial and federal governments.
She added she would like to see money from the federal government come with "strings attached" so it can't be directed toward private services.