At least 111 health-care aide positions will be cut at Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre as part of a major restructuring of city's health-care system, according to the Canadian Union of Public Employees, but the authority in charge disputes that number.
"The changes proposed today will negatively impact patient care, there is no doubt about that," Shannon McAteer, health-care co-ordinator for the union, said in a news release Tuesday, calling the changes "reckless."
About 700 hospital support staff — including health-care aides, unit clerical assistants and housekeeping staff, among others — from Grace Hospital, Victoria General Hospital, St. Boniface Hospital and a few from Misericordia Health Centre were told on Tuesday that deletion notices are on the way.
According to a WRHA news release, some support staff positions will be deleted — but the person in that position has options that include accepting a new position, applying for a different one, bumping into another role or choosing to take a layoff.
It wasn't clear from that release how many of those staff members will actually be out of work. A spokesperson for the WRHA said it's still too early to say for sure, because staff still need to look at the changes and make decisions about where they'd like to end up.
"The vast majority of people will have jobs at the end," said Karlee Blatz, WRHA senior labour relations counsel.
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But CUPE issued a news release after the announcement Tuesday, saying it had compared new schedules provided by the WRHA with old ones and concluded the new system will result in the shift of more than 100 positions from full-time to part-time between the HSC and the Grace, and the elimination of at least 111 jobs at the HSC alone.
"Health-care aide positions must be full-time so care to patients is consistent, any health-care provider can tell you that, not to mention the impact on recruitment and retention of qualified health-care aides," McAteer said in the union's release.
Blatz told CBC News the schedules are only proposed changes and still need to be set in stone.
"It's really premature to go down this road, because we have shared proposed rotations with CUPE at HSC, and have heard some of their feedback, and I understand the HSC site is taking some of that into account and working through things," she said.
"… In terms of how the strategy might deal with the types of changes we're seeing at HSC, we have to finalize what the new reality looks like before we land on how that's going to be seen for people."
She said the authority will be able to say with more certainty how many jobs will be affected by mid-October.
Nurses got deletion letters in August
In August, more than 500 nurses received their "position deletion letters," which doesn't mean they are being laid off but that they will move to new jobs as the health region tackles the major staffing changes.
As part of the health-care revamp announced in April, patients with similar needs will be grouped together in locations with specialized staff and equipment. Two emergency departments will also be replaced with urgent care centres and a third will close.
Hospital support staff are now starting to get deletion notices. Rotation opportunities will then be posted, which means staff will see which jobs are open.
Based on seniority, staff will have a one-on-one meeting where they can say which job they want in their current unit or elsewhere in the hospital, whether the job is vacant or it displaces someone, Blatz said.
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About 400 of the notices will go to staff at St. Boniface. While some of the units at St. Boniface will be moving to different hospitals, Blatz said a clinical assessment unit will provide additional opportunities for staff to stay. She said it's a similar situation at Grace Hospital, where some units will open, accounting for lost rotations as other units close or move.
"We are not looking at significantly less jobs in the system, and when we account for vacancies in the system we are confident that the vast majority of people will have jobs," she said.
WRHA could not provide numbers on how many positions would be lost in the process or how many employees were expected to move to a different hospital.
Jobs will be lost, union says
The health-care restructuring will mean a loss of jobs for front-line staff despite the government's promise, the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union said.
MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky said as many as 40 health-care workers at Victoria will lose their jobs.
"In April, when sweeping changes in health care were announced, the health minister and the WRHA made a commitment in writing that there would be jobs for all front-line staff in the WRHA," she said in a news release.
"To date, the only ones that have received job security assurances are nurses. We believe all members of the health-care team should be treated fairly and the government and WRHA should live up to their commitment to all front-line workers."
She called on Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen for a meeting.
In Tuesday's news release, Goertzen said the government's "commitment to both minimizing the disruption for staff and to ensuring transparency throughout the process will continue."
United Food and Commercial Workers represents about 300 support workers at St. Boniface Hospital.
Local 832 president Jeff Traeger could not say how many of those workers will lose their jobs but he said members are opposed to the process because it will cause upheaval, including questions about where employees work and what shifts they end up with.
The support staff changes are expected to start at Grace and Victoria next month and at St. Boniface later in the fall.