Dube hopes to avoid job cuts in health
Health Minister Madeleine Dubé is still seeking to find ways to avoid layoffs in the province's hospitals as she tries to trim her department's expenses.
The provincial government issued a 30-day notice to unionized employees that some employees could be laid off last month.
The notice period ends on Friday and that could open the door for the provincial government to start cutting staff.
The province's health minister said laying off staff is not her first option.
Dubé said the Canadian Union of Public Employees needs to work with the provincial government to find ways to save money.
"It was very, very clear to them that maybe what we're trying to find is some efficiencies within the system, to live within our means, and hopefully there will be no job loss," she said.
The cuts could affect workers at any of the health network's 12 hospitals and 26 health-care centres, clinics and other programs, such as mental health services.
Norma Robinson, the president of CUPE local 1252, said the provincial government told CUPE it will issue additional 30-day notices, hospital by hospital, once it decides where to cut.
But Robinson said that second notice isn't legally required before employees can be laid off.
"Now when that's going to happen, we have no idea. When we had our first meeting, they said within four to six weeks, they wanted this process in place," Robinson said.
"We're already four weeks in, so I would expect we're going to see something within the next two weeks."
The provincial government has ordered all government departments to curtail spending as it tries to wrestle down its massive deficit.
Finance Minister Blaine Higgs posted a $450-million deficit in his March budget, which was down from the former Liberal government's $748-million deficit from the previous year.
Higgs did not force the health department to endure an actual budget cut, but the finance minister said the regular increase in health funding would be reduced by two per cent.