Cambridge Memorial Hospital plans to cut 33 nursing jobs in the next three to four months as it shifts to an "inter-professional collaborative model" of care.  

The new model means those 33 nursing jobs will be replaced by personal support workers, creating a team of multiple medical professionals for patients at the hospital.

Hospitals officials say no one has been laid off yet, and that letters were given to 19 nurses and 14 nurse practitioners on Tuesday informing them of the changes.

"We are working to lessen the layoffs through early retirement packages and other voluntary means," said hospital spokesperson Stephan Beckhoff.

"If enough staff accept these packages, we should have very few layoffs. That is our first and foremost goal."  

There are a total of 469 nursing positions at the hospital, so the cuts amount to 7 per cent of the nursing workforce.

Currently the hospital has three personal support workers on staff, but plans to hire another 33. 

Nurses' union concerned about patient care

But the local branch of the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) said its primary concern isn't over the cuts, but how they will affect the level of care patients receive. 

"I've learned these assessment skills that's why I'm there," said Brenda Pugh, registered nurse at Cambridge Memorial Hospital, and the president of ONA Local 55.

"I'm going to be doing other stuff, paperwork. The nurses want to be at the bedside to look after the patients and that's what we're there for." 

It's not yet clear what duties the personal support workers will be doing.

The World Health Organization defines the practice being adopted by Cambridge Memorial as a situation when "multiple health workers from different professional backgrounds provide comprehensive services ... to deliver the highest quality of care across settings."

The Canadian Association of Nurses said on its website that interprofessional models "are critical for improving access to patient-centred health care in Canada."