According to an email circulated to Mount Royal University staff by president David Docherty, and obtained by Fast Forward Weekly, the university was forced to close two centres that evaluated internationally educated nurses in Edmonton and Calgary, despite recent claims by minister of health Fred Horne.
In an interview with the CBC, Horne said the decision to close the program was made by the university. In the email from Docherty, however, he writes: “This statement obscures the true nature and depth of our discussion on this issue with ministry officials dating back as early as July 2012.”
Docherty goes on to explain that the provincial government would not commit to long-term funding of the program despite the need to renew multi-year leases on the required spaces.
“We felt it would be fiscally irresponsible to commit to new multi-year leases without a written commitment from the program funder,” writes Docherty. “We informed the government that without their funding commitment we were unable to accept the risk of signing multi-year leases for space for an unfunded program, and for which Mount Royal would be wholly responsible.
“On March 11, the government replied that they accepted Mount Royal’s notice to close the two centres though such notice was never submitted nor desired by our institution. The government further requested a detailed budget for winding down the program, which was due March 18.”
Docherty writes that the university agreed to host the program as “a service to Albertans based on a funding grant from Alberta Health.”
The loss of the program will make it more difficult for immigrants with nursing credentials to work in Alberta.
Howard May, a spokesperson for Alberta Health, could not offer any information on the closing of the program or whether program funding will be reinstated. He reiterated the statement that Alberta Health accepted the closing of the centres “in light of their inability to reach a lease agreement that aligns with the long-term goals.”
May says it’s not the result of a program funding cut and that Alberta Health is looking at alternatives for the program down the road, but he couldn’t confirm whether or not funding exists for the program at this time or will in the future.
“There’s an effort going forward to look at what an alternative might look like, but it’s too early to talk about a timeline for that…. It’s premature at this point.”
The elimination of the program is outside the recent budget cuts imposed on post-secondaries in Alberta. Mount Royal’s overall funding will be reduced by 7.3 per cent.