Unions say quality of health care jeopardized by job cuts

Unions representing Ottawa Hospital workers who have been laid off say the job cuts will affect health care services, despite the hospital's assurances that quality of care won't be diminished.

The three unions representing Ottawa Hospital workers warn that patient care would be negatively affected by the 290 job cuts announced this week.

At a joint press conference Friday, the Ontario Nurses' Association Canadian, Union of Public Employees and Ontario Public Service Employees Union said the burden remaining employees, with a greater workload, would reduce the quality of health care at the hospital.

Bruce Waller of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents more than 100 full-time support staff positions the hospital will eliminate, said it's only a matter of time until the public suffers too.

"This is not about our salaries. This is not about our wages. This is about direct cuts to services and how this is going to affect the community," said Waller.

Frances Smith of the Ontario Nurses' Association has already identified 75 of the 90 nursing positions that will go and said that translates into a loss of 100,000 hours annually of front-line care.

Smith is also concerned that the elimination of nurse liaison positions means bedside nurses will soon be responsible for discharging patients.

"I'm very concerned that we are going to have patients who will fall through the cracks," she said.

Despite all these warnings from the unions, hospital officials maintain they will be able to provide the same quality of health care at a lower cost.

The Ottawa Hospital is making the cuts to cover a $31-million shortfall from its annual $1.04-billion budget.