Nova Scotia's Department of Health and Wellness says it will cut up to 128 jobs in the process of merging administrative services in its nine district health authorities and the IWK Health Centre.

Maureen MacDonald, the Minister of Health and Wellness, told a news conference on Thursday the move will save up to $8.8 million over the next 18 months.

Many of the cuts will be made to duplicating roles in administration.

"It just makes sense, if we have duplication in the health care system — a system that's under a lot of pressure — to be fiscally sound on a sustainable basis, then to avoid looking at patient care we really need to look at the administration, those areas where patients aren't directly impacted," MacDonald said.

She said the savings could be up to $52 million each year once the system is fully implemented.

"With less than one million people to care for, we cannot afford to be duplicating roles in administration that can be merged into stronger, leaner models," MacDonald told reporters earlier on Thursday.

The changes were recommended after a three-month, $98,000 report by consulting firm Ernst & Young that was commissioned by the government.

MacDonald said the report provided a number of options with respect to six services.

"Merging of some health services across the districts makes sense," she said.

The province and the district health authorities have agreed to merge services in:

  • General administration.
  • Supply services (purchasing).
  • Finance and payroll.
  • Some laundry consolidation.

"I believe strongly in protecting a living wage for people at the bottom of the wage spectrum in our healthcare system and I can't see myself overseeing decisions to erode their wages and reduce their benefits," MacDonald said.

"We have decided contracting out laundry services will not be one of the recommendations we implement."

Up to 128 job cuts possible

They will however consolidate laundry services within the district health authorities to "make them more efficient," she said, and in that consolidation some jobs could be lost.

Over the next 18 months, the health authorities will eliminate 11 to 20 vice-president and director positions.

The range of jobs on the chopping block could total more than 10 per cent of jobs — between 97 and 128 jobs, MacDonald said, out of more than 900 employees.

She said she hopes attrition will help with those numbers.

MacDonald said if the cuts weren't made, patient care could be affected, such as wait times and cancelled surgeries.

Chris d'Entremont, the health critic for the Progressive Conservatives, said the province should be looking to eliminate entire groups of district administrators.

"We're nowhere near where we need to be. We still have 10 CEOs. We still have 72 vice-presidents — well, apparently, we have 62 vice-presidents now. We have a whole bunch of directors," he said.

"Why not continue to look at that?"

Nova Scotia's largest expenditure is health care, taking up about 40 per cent of the province's budget.