The health authority in central Newfoundland is sticking by its plan to reduce the number of registered nurses in some rural areas, even though it may mean some nurses will have to move to keep their jobs.

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Nurses' Union members rallied at Confederation Building last week to protest reduced use of RNs at Central Health. (CBC )

The Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses' Union has been rallying against the plan — most recently with a protest last week at Confederation Building in St. John's — and claims that patient care will be compromised.

Among other things, Central Health plans to reduce the number of registered nurses on some shifts with other positions, particularly licensed practical nurses.

Trudy Stuckless, the chief nursing officer with Central Health, said the changes may mean relocation for some employees.

"It's likely that nurses who are displaced from some of the rural areas may end up in the larger centres," Stuckless told CBC News.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government maintains the changes will not affect overall employment numbers at Central Health, and that layoffs are not anticipated.

But so far, few details of how the plan will affect different towns have been released.

Lewisporte is the only clear example. One overnight shift for a registered nurse is disappearing, to be replaced by two LPNs. The shift change affects four different nurses, some of whom will have to leave town to keep a job.

Stuckless challenged the nurses' union's arguments on patient care.

"For those who are suggesting that this model is going to reduce safety and to decrease the quality of patient care, I would say that is completely inaccurate," she said.

Central Health expects all of the changes to be completed by next summer.

It's also expected that the other health boards in Newfoundland and Labrador will follow suit.