CBC News has learned 11 nursing positions will be eliminated at St. Joseph's Hospital.

The hospital plans to replace several registered practical nurses [RPNs] with personal support workers [PSWs] on a floor where patients are waiting to be placed in long-term care. Right now, personal care on the unit is provided solely by RPNs 

Personal support workers are paid less than registered practical nurses. Tracy Buckler, president and CEO of St. Joseph's Care Group, said the move was expected to save about $150,000 to $200,000 a year.

Tracy Buckler

St. Joseph's Care Group president and CEO Tracy Buckler says the hospital is confident the affected registered practical nurses will move into other positions or retire, rather than being laid off. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

Although budget is always a consideration, Buckler said, the main reason for the change is to provide the same staffing mix now used in long-term care homes — including those run by St. Joseph's. 

"We have very good experience within our long-term care homes as far as how the RPN and PSW model can work together," she told CBC News. "They work as a team. They work to provide the best care for the client."

"The fact of the matter is if there is a client at St. Joseph's Hospital on this unit that was going to a long-term care home the next day, that's the model of care that they would receive when they moved," Buckler added. 

Personal support workers assist residents with daily personal care needs, including bathing, dressing and toileting. Registered practical nurses can also perform those functions, but are also certified to make nursing judgments about patient care and perform medical tasks, such as dispensing medication.  

Buckler said the hospital is working with the union representing the nurses, and expected they would either move into other nursing vacancies at St. Joseph's or retire.  

"We are pretty confident ... the process will be managed without layoffs," she said.