Nurses union condemns 39 layoffs as part of budget cuts

hospital-frontBy Cam Kennedy

BELLEVILLE – Patients will suffer under a proposal to cut 39 jobs from local hospitals, the head of the provincial nurses union predicted Wednesday.

Thirty-nine union positions are under threat in Belleville, Trenton, Picton and Bancroft after Quinte Health Care announced major budget.

QHC announced a number of proposed changes as part of its overall plans to cut costs by $5 million for the upcoming fiscal year. The hospital plan also also increases the role of nursing staff, changes to the use of beds, and reductions in administration staff, according to a press release.

Chief Executive Officer Mary Clare Egberts confirmed there will be fewer registered nursing hours per patient, but the job will be done by others. And, in the end, the patients will get the same or more support.

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But Vicki McKenna, provincial vice-president of the Ontario Nurses Association, said despite no final decisions being made on who is being cuts, nursing staff will suffer. She laid the blame at the feet of the administration, saying enough already.

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McKenna said the cuts will be made to nursing staff in the medical units in Belleville, Trenton and Picton, as well as the intensive care units, operating rooms in the emergency departments and the rehabilitation departments.

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However, hospital officials say some of the job cuts will come from attrition, retirements and reassignment, said Susan Rowe, senior director of communications for Quinte Health Care, in a press release.

Before anything is finalized in the next few weeks, union leaders from Ontario Nurses Association, the Ontario Public Services Employees Union, Service Employees International Union and Unifor will have time to respond to the cutbacks to give alternative proposals to minimize the impact on individuals, she said in a press release. The hospital must finalize its budget by April 1.

McKenna said the consultations means little and nursing staff will be affected. This means patients will be affected, as well.

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However, Egbert said admitted it was a hard day.

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Public education is the next key step, Egbert said. The hospital will take the next 18 months to explain the changes and how they will work.

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The hospital received $3.5 million in one-time funding was given to QHC by Ontario’s Health Ministry last week.

Going forward, the proposal has registered nurses, registered practical nurses and personal support workers playing a larger role in a team–based model of patient care, said Rowe in a press release. This means the nurses will provide additional services when it comes to planning patient care, counselling and other services.

Quinte Health Care has already made $7 million in budget cuts. Over the past 3 years, QHC has removed a total of $20 million in costs. This came after a new funding formula implemented by the Ministry of Heath to help create a more sustainable health care system and reduce the deficit.

Quinte Health Care has 1800 staff members and 320 medical staff for region of 160,000 residents. QHC provides a number of services including inpatient services, four emergency departments, children’s treatment center and community mental health programs in Trenton, Bancroft, Picton and Belleville.

Full interview with Ontario Nurses Association Vice-President Vicki McKenna

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Full interview with Quinte Health Care Chief Executive Officer Mary Clare Egberts

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