Ralph McBride says the cut amounts to 21,000 fewer hours for CUPE members who work in hospitals. (CBC)

Hospital staffing levels in New Brunswick took another hit Monday with dozens of cutbacks and layoffs affecting licensed practical nurses and workers providing basic care.

The changes will see 68 positions either have their hours cut or disappear altogether. Ten part-time workers in the province will see their hours increase.

The Moncton Hospital is the hardest hit, losing seven full-time positions, primarily LPNs. Those who do basic care for patients will see hours reduced, along with clerks and those who stock rooms with medical supplies and linens.

The other affected hospitals are the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton, Oromocto Public Hospital, Sackville Memorial Hospital, Charlotte County Hospital in St. Stephen, Saint John Regional Hospital and Sussex Health Centre.

Ralph McBride, the provincial co-ordinator for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents the affected workers, says the gain of hours for a few workers won’t offset what’s being lost.

"We're going to gain a few hours, but overall we're seeing, this is about cost savings, not about better quality of care," said McBride.

Monday’s notices come on the heels of Friday’s announcement from Horizon Health Network that 32 registered nurses in the province’s hospitals are being laid off.

Better mix of staff

Horizon, the province’s largest health authority, says the changes will create a better mix of staff to suit patient needs.

Three-quarters of the positions affected Monday are part-time positions.

Lisa Allen has been an LPN since 1996 and is the president of CUPE Local 1199. She says it’s always been a scramble to put together full-time hours.

"I get 10 shifts in a month and then I scramble to get the rest of the shifts to make up full-time hours," said Allen. "So there's times I have to work a 'swing-back shift' . . .  I'll work to 11:30 at night, get home at midnight and be back to work at 7:30 in the morning."

The reduction in hours will ultimately lead to union members "bumping" colleagues with less seniority. Allen said that process will take months.

"It's hard enough now to provide the best care possible to our patients, so to hear we're going to see a reduction in hours tells me that means less staff on the floor, less hands-on for our patients," she said.

CUPE estimates the reduction will amount to 21,000 fewer hours for its members.

Horizon Health says it hopes to save $2 million through the move.