Newfoundland and Labrador's health minister is countering claims by the provincial nurses' union that budget restraint will mean lost jobs in some hospitals.

Nurses' Union members rallied Thursday at Confederation Building in St. John's to express fears that the jobs of some registered nurses will be replaced by licensed practical nurses, or LPNs, at Central Health.


Health Minister Susan Sullivan says she does not expect job losses in central Newfoundland's hospitals over changes to nursing shifts. (CBC )

Union president Debbie Forward said Central Health's proposed staffing changes would reduce the number of RNs and compromise patient safety.

"The most significant changes are happening on the night shifts where, in most places, there are two registered nurses working now, that they will be reduced to one registered nurse working nights," Forward said.

But Health Minister Sullivan said the Central Health review will ensure that RNs are doing only appropriate work.

"There are certain duties, non-nursing duties that they don't want to do - stripping beds, removing garbage from rooms and so on," Sullivan told CBC News.

"So we've now removed that from their tasks, their daily tasks, and we've assigned those duties to other health care professionals."

Sullivan said there "likely" will be more staff overall working in some hospitals.

"What we do know is that there will be no net loss of registered nurses in Newfoundland and Labrador working. Some may be redeployed to other areas of the hospital but there will be no net loss of nurses."

An official with Central Health said no layoffs are planned, although one position will be eliminated in Lewisporte and some nurses may be offered jobs in other facilities.

Forward says she fears it's just a matter of time until the other health authorities make similar moves.

With files from Krissy Holmes