Manitoba

Career torn away from Seven Oaks Hospital manager in government cuts

A manager with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says she was "broken" after being laid off from Seven Oaks Hospital Tuesday, ending a 32-year career at the hospital.

At least 197 positions eliminated this week to comply with Manitoba government's order

Carolyne Buck worked at Seven Oaks General Hospital for 32 years before she was laid off Tuesday as part of an government mandated 15 per cent cut to management at Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

A manager with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says she was "broken" after being laid off from Seven Oaks Hospital Tuesday, ending a 32-year career at the hospital.

Carolyne Buck, 51, started working at the hospital when she was 18. She never imagined her last day managing the Kildonan Medical Centre — which is in the hospital — would be the day she was let go.

She told CBC News she was planning to retire within five years.

"This was a wonderful job, a wonderful clinic, wonderful staff, wonderful doctors. I'm going to miss them so much," she said.

"I wasn't prepared for this at all."

The career Buck loved came to an abrupt end earlier this week when human resources announced her position was being "deleted" as part of a 15 per cent government-mandated cut to management at health authorities across Manitoba.

"My whole life has changed," said Buck. "It's the first time since I was 12 years old that I have no job."

Her management position was one of at least 197 eliminated this week to comply with the government's order. At the Winnipeg Health Region Authority alone, 132 jobs were cut — including vacant positions — which a spokesperson said will save the health region $10 million annually.

Some of Buck's responsibilities in her position included performance reviews, handling patient complaints, ensuring prescriptions were written on time, dealing with payroll glitches and handling invoices for doctors. Buck said her annual salary was around $60,000 and she directly managed 12 clerical staff and nursing assistants.

"It was just torn away from me. I had no choice," she said.

Buck says other staff at Seven Oaks General Hospital are worried about job security as they prepare for the closure of its emergency room. (Julianne Runne/CBC)

She was dismissed after lunch and she said she was escorted out of the building. She also said she was prevented from collecting personal things or saying goodbye to colleagues.

"I felt like I was a criminal. I felt humiliated. I felt disrespected. I felt very embarrassed," Buck said.

She was given a small severance because she had only been a manager at Kildonan Medical Centre for a year, and was offered support from a professional consultant and the employee assistance program.

Management stressed, says Buck

Buck wonders how the health authority will manage without people like her as what Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen calls the biggest change in a generation comes to hospitals in Winnipeg.

In April, the province announced it will be closing emergency rooms at Seven Oaks General Hospital and Victoria General Hospital in Winnipeg, and converting them into 24/7 urgent care centres. Misericordia Health Centre's 24-hour urgent care centre will be converted to a intravenous therapy clinic.

Many staff members at Seven Oaks Hospital are worried about their job security, said Buck, and that may be having an effect on patient care.

"Everybody's very unsure right now and it's not a good way to work," she said. "It's not a good way to have your full concentration every day at work, and take care of patients."

A manager with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says she was "broken" after being laid off from Seven Oaks Hospital Tuesday, ending a 32-year career at the hospital. 2:02

Managers at the hospital are already stressed "to the max" and Buck wonders whether staff can handle the additional work left by laid off employees along with the massive changes underway at the hospital, she said.

"I don't see them having time or the ability to take on other extra work now," Buck said.

Still, she is left wondering how much her salary will really save the WRHA. 

"What is $60,000 a year cut going to do for the health region?" she asked. "We're not $300,000-a-year employees. We're regular everyday people that need to work."

'There is a lot of grieving going on'

WRHA chief operating officer Real Cloutier said Tuesday was a very difficult day for the health region.  

"I think that there is a lot of grieving going on. We unfortunately let go a lot of people who were very dedicated to patient care, were very dedicated to doing the work of health care," he said.  

Cloutier said there was serious consideration around each of the 132 positions cut.

"These individuals were doing meaningful work and we had to consider how we were going to survive post their departures, in terms of managing the workloads," he said.

He said there were different administrative teams tasked with looking at where the WRHA could achieve the mandated cuts and which positions could be consolidated, and which the health region could manage without. The cuts affected positions at the manager, director and executive levels.

"There is no question we thought, and are thinking ahead, how we need to restructure going forward, because you can't cut that number of individuals and expect that the work can be done in the same way," Cloutier said, adding that planning will be particularly important as the WRHA goes through major restructuring.

It will take some time for the region to determine how things will work in the departments that experienced cuts, he said.

"We manage a resource base of $3 billion for the taxpayers of Manitoba and we have 28,000 people who deliver care in our health-care system in Winnipeg. We have very dedicated managers who help steer that every day," he said.

"So to say that we can figure this out by tomorrow is not going to happen, but certainly we have to, for our remaining managers. We need to support them to get the work done that needs to get done."

About the Author

Laura Glowacki is a reporter based in Ottawa and Winnipeg. Previously, she worked as an associate producer for CBC's Metro Morning in Toronto. Find her on Twitter @glowackiCBC and reach her by email at laura.glowacki@cbc.ca.

with files from Kelly Malone