Kitchener-Waterloo

Grand River Hospital cuts 25 full-time and 15 part-time nurses: ONA

The Ontario Nurses Association says Grand River Hospital has cut 40 nursing jobs. The hospital announced in January it would need to cut 49 jobs to deal with a $7.4 million budget deficit.

Job cuts will 'have a negative impact on the patients,' nurses union says

The Ontario Nurses Union says Grand River Hospital has cut 40 registered nursing positions, 25 full-time and 15 part-time.

The Ontario Nurses Association says Grand River Hospital has cut 25 full-time and 15 part-time registered nursing positions as the hospital looks to deal with its $7 million deficit.

The nurses union said the hospital has also closed four beds in the in-patient mental health unit.

ONA president Vicki McKenna also said the hospital is cutting nursing positions from in-patient surgery, renal and adult surgical units, geriatrics, as well as from roles such as diabetic educators and lactation consultants.

In an interview, McKenna said they knew cuts were coming, but didn't realize just how many nursing positions would be affected.

"We were taken aback, or shocked really, to hear the numbers of registered nurses that were being cut from the system. Forty is big, that number is big," McKenna said.

"These reductions really are ones that we know will impact greatly in the system."

Deficit could grow

In January, hospital officials said they're facing a $7.4 million deficit and because of that, 38 full-time and 11 part-time jobs could be affected in the current fiscal year.

Mark Karjaluoto, director of communications with the hospital, at the time said staff were told about the cuts and that more cuts could happen in the next three years.

"We know that if we do nothing, and the ministry of health funding to us remains unchanged, that we would be looking at a deficit from hospital operations of about $18 million next year, and it would grow over time," Karjaluoto said.

He noted the hospital has also invested in a new clinical information system at a cost of about $66 million and they will be going into long-term debt to pay that off.

'Unconscionable that mental health beds are being cut'

It's the cuts to the four in-patient mental health beds that concerns Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife.

"It's absolutely unconscionable that mental health beds are being cut in Waterloo region when we have such a crisis on the mental health care file," she said in an interview. "Thank goodness the nurses are really breaking down what these cuts mean to people and constituents in Kitchener-Waterloo."

Fife says "everyone knows" frontline workers like nurses "are essentially holding the system together." The cuts "will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the patient experience."

McKenna said she's urging residents to contact their local MPP and the health minister to offer their thoughts on the cuts.

In a joint statement emailed to CBC Kitchener-Waterloo Wednesday evening, Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris and Kitchener South-Hespeler MPP Amy Fee said they're aware of the job cuts and they spoke with hospital officials.

"We have also reached out to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care who will continue to work with the hospital to ensure that patients continue to have access to quality, evidence-based and accessible care when they need it," the statement said.

Delivering same service with fewer beds

In an interview Wednesday, Grand River Hospital president Ron Gagnon confirmed the ONA numbers for nursing positions eliminated.

He said of the nursing positions that have been cut, nine people took early retirement, 20 positions were already vacant and hadn't been refilled, some of the nurses took on roles elsewhere in the hospital and only one person was laid off.

He said the hospital is delivering on its contractual commitments for mental health. He said the hospital considered the mental health concerns of the community when the beds were reduced.

"What we're doing it is still delivering the same service. We are doing it with less beds, but we're doing that through efficiencies in our length of stay," he said, noting they're always looking at ways to get more investments into mental health.

 "Right now, with the investments being made, these are the services we're able to provide."

When asked if he could guarantee the layoffs wouldn't impact patient care, Gagnon said, "Our continued focus is on making sure that we're providing high-quality care."

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