Kitchener-Waterloo

Nursing position cuts in Kitchener just the start of changes to province's healthcare: Horwath

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says Grand River Hospital cutting 40 nursing positions is the beginning of more job losses in the healthcare system. Health Minister Christine Elliott says the government wants to put more people into front-line care.

'We want to make sure that patients have the front-line care that they need,' health minister says

Grand River Hospital has cut 40 nursing positions in a bid to save money in the face of a deficit. Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath argued Thursday morning in question period the job cuts are the start of job cuts that will be seen across the province. (CBC)

Grand River Hospital's decision to cut 40 nursing positions is the start of more job cuts in healthcare, warned Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

Horwath raised the cuts at the Kitchener hospital during question period at Queen's Park Thursday morning.

"Not long ago the premier pretended that under his Conservative government, not a single job would be lost," Horwath said.

In response, deputy premier and Health Minister Christine Elliott said she is "certainly aware of the situation" at Grand River Hospital.

"We are working with the Grand River Hospital to help them deal with the financial losses that they have experienced. We want to make sure that patients have the front-line care that they need," Elliott said.

Hospital faces deficit

In an interview Wednesday, Grand River Hospital president Ron Gagnon confirmed 40 nursing positions have been cut: 25 full-time and 15 part-time. He said of those cuts, just one nurse was laid off. Others took early retirement, some moved to other jobs and 20 of the positions were vacant and not filled.

The hospital also closed four beds in the inpatient mental health unit by finding "efficiencies," Gagnon said.

Hospital officials said they're facing a $7.4 million deficit in this year's operating budget. If the Ministry of Health funding remains unchanged this year, the hospital faces a $18 million shortfall next year.

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.

Gagnon also said they have made changes to non-front-line staff positions.

"We continue to look at what our opportunities are going forward. We continue to compare ourselves with our peer hospitals and we know, when we look at our administrative spending, we are in the best quartile," he said.

"It is an area we will continue to look at as we look at our entire operation."

'Recentre our healthcare system on patients'

Horwath argued the cuts in Kitchener will spread across the province.

"The people of Kitchener are already seeing the impact of the premier's health plans," she said. "Will the acting premier tell us how many more nurses will be losing jobs as the government imposes their new health scheme on Ontarians?"

Elliott again reiterated her ministry and government are working with Grand River Hospital and changes to the province's healthcare will focus on getting patients the help they need.

"We need to recenter our healthcare system on patients, families and caregivers. That is not happening now," Elliott said. "We want to put more people into front-line care."

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