Horizon Health has confirmed it's making major cutbacks to the cafeteria hours in its hospitals.
Starting in the new year, no cafeteria in any of the regional health authority's hospitals will be open on weekends or statutory holidays, or after 1:30 p.m. on weekdays.
"We have determined that adjustments must be made to ensure that our retail operations achieve a break-even position," Horizon's chief operating officer Andrea Seymour said in a written statement. "Horizon's cafeterias are currently losing $350,000 per year."
The RHA says it will offer "enhanced grab and go" food services in some hospitals, and that patients and their families will have other options such as vending machines.
Horizon will also talk to food companies that rent space in some hospitals, such as Tim Horton's and Subway, about expanding their hours and offerings.
The reduced hours for cafeterias are:
- 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday to Friday at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton and the Saint John Regional Hospital
8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday to Friday at the Moncton Hospital and the Miramichi Regional Hospital
9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to Friday at the Upper River Valley Hospital in Waterville, the Oromocto Public Hospital and the Sackville Memorial Hospital
8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at St. Joseph's Hospital in Saint John
Complete closure at the Sussex Health Centre, the Charlotte County Hospital in St. Stephen, and Centracare in Saint John.
Horizon says food services for patients won't be affected.
CUPE confirms 25 layoffs
The Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 1252 says 25 of its members, representing the equivalent of 13 full-time positions, received layoff notices on Thursday.
"It would be the cashiers who work in the cafeterias, it would be the people who work on the grills, it could be the people working in the kitchen preparing things that are sold in the cafeterias as well," said Local 1252 president Norma Robinson.
Health Minister Victor Boudreau said the proposal came from Horizon, not the government, but he defended the decision.
"They are obviously, like everyone else, looking at what is the best way to find efficiencies within their operations or within their departments," he said.
"My understanding is in many of these instances, these cafeterias don't even pay for themselves."
But Robinson argued food service should be considered an essential part of health care, and shouldn't be forced to break even.
"Quite frankly, health care is not in the business of making money," she said.
"Health care is to provide a service to the patients that are in the hospitals as well as families that are coming in. So they're making a reduction that is going to reduce a service of value to those patients and their families."
Cafeterias still to be privatized
The Liberals announced in April that they were planning to privatize the management of hospital food and cafeteria services.
At the time, Boudreau said only the administration would be privatized. Employees would remain unionized public-sector workers.
Despite that, CUPE has mounted a campaign against the plan, predicting that more people could die of hospital-based infections if the private sector takes over.
The province has yet to sign an agreement with a private bidder.
Boudreau said Thursday the cuts to cafeteria hours are unrelated to the privatization.