The union representing nurses at Winnipeg's Deer Lodge Centre says its members have been told the equivalent of 15 full-time jobs will be cut from the long-term care and rehabilitation facility.
But the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says nothing has been set in stone, and it expects to see an increase in health-care aide positions at Deer Lodge.
"They're reorganizing schedules, which ultimately results in about 15 full-time equivalent nurses being struck off force," said Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.
The union represents roughly 150 nursing professionals at Deer Lodge Centre. Nurses there aren't represented by the Manitoba Nurses Union because of the centre's former role as a federal veteran's hospital.
Daviau said the centre told her organization about a "workforce reduction," and later reached out to nurses to consult.
A spokesperson for the Winnipeg health authority confirmed changes are coming for the centre, and said consultations with nurses on scheduling began on Tuesday.
"The region expects a reduction in the number of nurses. However, any net job loss within the DLC site won't be known until consultation is complete and the number of … vacancies that exist at the site are taken into account," she wrote in an email to CBC News.
"As well, at Deer Lodge Centre there will be a net increase of approximately 50 health-care aide positions as the staffing mix is brought in line with what's required at a long-term care facility."
She added the authority remains confident there will be a position for any nurse who wants to work in the region.
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The changes are part of an ongoing overhaul of health care in Winnipeg, which the province and health authority say is aimed at streamlining the system and finding efficiencies.
"One of the goals of clinical consolidation is to better align each unit's staffing mix with the needs of its patient population," the health authority spokesperson wrote in her email.
"So, for example, a unit that cares for patients with complex care needs will be staffed at a higher level, and with a greater number of specialized staff, than a unit where the patient population is more stable."
But Daviau said she doesn't buy that explanation.
"From our perspective, it's actually a cost-saving measure, designed to save money and not actually to improve or even sustain patient care," she said.
"They're beefing up on the much cheaper labour — the orderlies, the non-professional portions of health care in the hospital. So, you know, there'll be a lot less involvement with the registered nurse than previously, and a lot less ability, from our nurses' perspective, to take care of patients' overall health care."
Changes necessary: premier
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister called the changes a reallocation of staffing dollars and labour.
"I'm not an elitist when it comes to health care. I know that there are people at various skill levels providing different kinds of care, and every system needs that, needs people who can do that," the premier said.
"There's a change. Change is not easy, change is hard. But the changes are necessary to improve the overall sustainability of our system and improve the quality of care."
But Daviau said she's concerned the change in staffing will hurt patient care at the centre. A health-care aide is "the perfect person" to help with basic duties, she said, but may not be able to spot warning signs or deal with emergencies a nurse could handle.
"For us, it's not about jobs, because our members can get jobs anywhere," she said.
"But it's really about their ability to provide proper patient care, and they're very concerned that these cuts will result in people receiving worse care."
'I don't have a ton of faith': union president
Daviau said she's not confident consultation with nurses at the centre will be productive.
"I hope that [consultations] will be meaningful, but I don't have a ton of faith," she said. "Usually, when you consult on something, you have a conversation with your professionals, the people providing the service, before you make decisions about what changes can be made."
Instead, she said decisions are being guided by "outside reports," including one by KPMG that hasn't been released by the province.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew called the changes "foolish."
"We know that across the board we're seeing reductions in the quality of service, and that, to me, is foolish in the long run," he said.
"It's only going to cost the system more in the medium term and in the long term as these patients who receive less quality care are forced to go to the emergency room, or to be readmitted to hospital more often in the future."