Alberta’s Official Opposition is pressing Premier Jason Kenney to halt health care layoffs as the province confronts the coronavirus pandemic.

Last November, Alberta Health Services sent a letter to union leaders outlining a plan to eliminate an estimated 500 full-time registered nursing positions over three years.

Those layoffs are expected to start April 1.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley was in Lethbridge Wednesday to voice her concerns saying Alberta should be hiring more nurses not firing them.

She says “we are concerned about problems with respect to under-staffing and whether or not we have additional staff ready to supplement the work that those folks have. We also know, of course, that there will be struggles with respect to them having to quarantine should they become infected.”

Notley says Albertans need to take measures to avoid contracting COVID-19 but if they become ill, they need certainty there will be a hospital bed and frontline care workers to help them.

Highly contested compensation changes for doctors are also set to take effect April 1, something Notley says has forced frontline physicians to close their clinics, threaten to close, or to reduce their hours.

She says “we cannot force conditions that would see doctors leave.

NDP Finance Critic and Lethbridge West MLA Shannon Phillips, along with Health Critic David Shepherd, also raised concerns about health care capacity Wednesday in a letter to Finance Minister Travis Toews and Health Minister Tyler Shandro.

The letter asks the ministers to “immediately reverse course on your plans for Alberta’s health care system” adding “at this time, all efforts should be made to increase resources for the healthcare system, including staff resources, who will be on the frontlines dealing with this crisis.”