Rouge Valley hospital plans layoffs

Planned layoffs at Scarborough Centenary Hospital could result in longer wait times for patients, warns a hospital employee union.

The Rouge Valley Health System gave notice on Feb. 5 of 14 positions being terminated, as part of a deficit elimination plan introduced two years ago. At Scarborough the cuts include lab technicians, mental health workers and histologists.

The layoffs could mean longer wait times for patients in histology and biopsy results could then take two to three days, which is double what is expected now, said Rick Janson, spokesperson for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

“It’s not exactly humane for patients to make them wait that long to find out the results of their tests,” Janson said.

The RVHS denies, however, any suggestion that service is slipping.

“In fact, we’ve improved the quality of our care,” said David Brazeau, RVHS director of public affairs.

In addition, Janson said the elimination of three social workers would cut a third of the social workers department—a substantial loss that would prolong the already four-month waitlist for children and youth mental health.

“When you consider the fight we had over mental health a couple of years ago, it’s surprising that mental health is taking another cut,” Janson said.

Brazeau said it is crucial for the health service to uphold the deficit elimination plan, so the hospital could continue operation.

“As a hospital, we’re not allowed to run in the red,” he said. “Now we’ve gotten our financial ship in order,”

Janson said the health service had promised no services would be cut as long as the hospital received at least one per cent increase in funding this year. The health ministry has not yet announced the exact increase in the hospital’s funding for this year, he said.

“It was a bit of a shock to actually see layoff notices given out,” Janson said. “We thought they would at least wait to see what their funding was going to look like.”

Brazeau said efforts are being made to secure the future of the laid-off workers, including plans for redeployment and early retirement packages for those eligible.

“It may be possible to redeploy enough people so that no one is out of work,” Brazeau said.

Aside from layoffs, the deficit elimination plan included changes in spending on the hospital’s infrastructure.

“We’ve compared ourselves to a lot of other hospitals and said, ‘Oh look, not only are they spending less money, but also getting better results,’ ” Brazeau said. “We saw that we have the talent and the determination to do better.”