The Horizon Health Network plans to cut 131 jobs as a part of a broader plan to reduce spending by almost $22 million in 2013-14, health officials announced on Thursday.

Health Minister Ted Flemming announced the series of cuts in New Brunswick's two regional health authorities as well as FacilicorpNB.

He said given that almost 75 per cent of the department's $2.5 billion budget is spent on payroll, significant savings must come from job cuts.

"The stark reality of that figure is that while we can be more efficient and can make changes without compromising health care, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, without affecting people. It is an unfortunate situation, but a necessary task," Flemming said.

This is the latest in a series of cuts made by the health authorities as they try to live within the province's fiscal constraints.

The Horizon Health cuts will affect union and non-union positions.

But front-line health care providers will not be among the cuts, said John McGarry, the president and chief executive officer of Horizon Health.

"Administration and management, non-clinical positions across the board," he said.

The affected employees will be notified over the next few weeks.

Financial challenge is 'substantial'

The job losses will save $6.7 million of the $22 million to be slashed in the next fiscal year, so more changes are coming.

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John McGarry, the president of Horizon Health, said the job cuts will not weaken the quality of service in the authority's hospitals. (CBC)

McGarry said the organization's financial challenge is "substantial."

"But less money does not have to mean a reduction in the quality of the services we provide," he said in a statement.

"We are committed to making the changes necessary to sustain our health-care system, while continuing to provide safe, quality patient care. We continue to develop our health and business plans for the next two years and I know we will be faced with continuing fiscal challenges."

Flemming also announced his department would trim its workforce by 10 per cent or 40 positions, over the next two years.

He blamed previous governments for not making tough decisions. "Decisions were made for the purposes of employing people, not for the purposes of clinically correct health reasons," he said.

Meanwhile, the Vitalité Health Network expects to identify the previously-announced 400 full-time equivalent job cuts by end of August, officials said.

The Vitalité cuts, which will save an estimated $24 million a year, will be implemented over three years, starting with 200 in the first year, mainly in the administrative sector. The normal retirement rate is about 240 workers a year.

FacilicorpNB will also slash 57 full-time-equivalent positions by consolidating some of the hospital-based laundry services by April 1, 2014.

Laundry and linen at The Moncton Hospital and the Dr.-Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre will be processed by the Saint John laundry facility.

Laundry and linen at the Chaleur Regional Hospital and the Tracadie-Sheila hospital will be processed at the Campbellton Regional Hospital.

The laundries in Edmundston and Fredericton will remain in operation.

"Through the work of the Office of Health System Renewal, all of the health partners — Horizon Health Network, Vitalité Health Network, FacilicorpNB and the Department of Health — are making changes to their corporate structures and working to improve the system's performance so that per-capita health care costs can be brought closer to the national average," Health Minister Ted Flemming said in a statement.

The changes will increase the effectiveness and accountability of the system, simplify its administration, and introduce health innovations while not compromising patient care, he said.

The province's health-care budget in 2013-14 is $2.5 billion, representing zero growth over last year.

In February, Horizon cut the number of vice-presidents to five from 11.

Vitalité quickly followed suit, cutting five of the network's eight vice-presidents.