Dozens of unionized workers gathered with picket signs and pamphlets on the road to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney on Monday morning to protest cuts to the detox unit.
The Cape Breton District Health Authority is replacing six workers known as counsellor attendants in the detox unit, who provide counselling and perform assessments on patients suffering from drug addiction.
The counsellor attendants don't have the credentials to perform the duties they've been doing, according to the Cape Breton District Health Authority. They will be replaced by other health-care professionals including nurses, licensed practical nurses and recreational therapists.
Margaret Graham, a counsellor attendant, was one of about 25 workers with the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union who took part in the protest.
"We think the public will come onside with us. We're hoping that they make a call to the district, that they call their local politicians, MLAs, MPs, that they voice their support for us and that we have a chance to be heard," said Graham.
Workers said their years of experiences make them the best people to help patients withdraw from drugs.
Jason MacLean, a vice-president of the NSGEU, said these layoffs could have repercussions around the province.
"We have a huge fear on the change of model of care for the community. We have trained individuals that are actually experienced and have life experiences in doing this work," said MacLean.
"It's a domino effect if one district health authority is making this change, then the other district health authorities are likely to follow suit."
The NSGEU is putting on three similar protests Monday: a rally outside the tourism bureau at the Canso Causeway, a second rally outside the Cape Breton Regional Hospital and a third at the Grand Lake Road Fire Hall in Sydney.