Hospital in Newmarket, Ont. to cut 95 registered nurse positions due to financial challenges

A hospital in Newmarket, Ont. says it is planning to cut 95 registered nurse positions due to financial challenges — a move the Ontario Nurses’ Association calls “completely irresponsible” amid COVID-19 and the upcoming flu season.

Kathryn Perrier, manager of corporate communications for Southlake Regional Health Centre, said in an email on Tuesday that the hospital plans to add 49 registered practical nurse positions and 29 of what it calls patient services partner positions. As well, the hospital plans to add three social worker positions.

“Similar to some other hospitals across the province, Southlake is currently facing a significant financial challenge and has announced a series of changes to address this while maintaining the same high-quality care that we provide to the communities we serve,” Perrier said.

“Given the number of current and potential future clinical vacancies we have, we are hopeful to avoid any frontline involuntary employment loss at Southlake.”

The layoffs will mean an “updated model of care” in the hospital’s inpatient units, she said.

Southlake said it will follow the collective agreements it has negotiated with its unions,

“Based on these agreements, some clinical staff may move to another area of the hospital. In these cases, appropriate skills development and supports will be provided,” she said.

Perrier said the hospital plans to hire more front-line unionized clinical staff and to cut 34 management and administrative positions. The cuts are in addition to 15 layoffs last year.

“Southlake is facing a substantial deficit which is unrelated to COVID-19 and predates the pandemic,” she added.

The hospital is engaging in an independent external review by a third party with the help of the Ontario Health Central Region.

“The objective is to review our funding position, our actions to date, and gain an understanding of Southlake’s funding requirements for 2020/21 and beyond,” she said.

Layoffs will directly affect patient care, union says

Vicki McKenna, president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, said in a news release on Tuesday that the layoffs will devastate Newmarket and directly affect patient care.

“I cannot fathom how Southlake Regional Health Centre CEO Arden Krystal can justify cutting front-line registered nurses during a global pandemic,” McKenna said.

“With the second wave of COVID-19 and the upcoming influenza season, which will put undue pressure on all hospitals, cutting registered nurses is completely irresponsible.”

McKenna said the layoffs are expected to affect busy acute-care units and she noted the hospital is located in the Newmarket-Aurora riding of Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott.

“The hospital cites its budget as the reason for the cuts and, if this is so, then the government needs to immediately step in and do an audit and prevent these layoffs from happening,” she said.

According to the Ontario health ministry, Southlake received a funding increase of more than $5 million this year to expand front-line services for York Region.

“Hospitals are in charge of their own operations and operational decision making. That said, when making planning decisions, we expect all hospitals to minimize impacts on frontline care,” the ministry said in an email on Tuesday.

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