Union blames government for recent hospital layoffs

The provincial government is to blame for the recent layoffs at Rouge Valley Centenary Hospital, says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

Fourteen positions have been terminated at the hospital, including lab technicians and mental health workers. Nine positions were layoffs, while the remaining five were elimination of vacancies.

This has occurred because the government isn’t giving hospitals a good idea of what their funding is going to be for next year until September , OPSEU spokesperson Rick Janson said. This shortens the length of time for hospitals to make important budgeting decisions, he said.

“Some [hospitals] are trying to avoid risk by carrying out layoffs now,” Janson said. “There haven’t been any other indications at this point in terms of what that funding level could be.”

Hospitals have been told there will be some additional funds next year but now how much.

“There will be an increase in hospital funding,” said Ivan Langrish, press secretary for health minister Deb Matthews. “But it’s a complicated process between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance to maintain quality and operating costs.”

Although these negotiations are ongoing, the parties involved have yet to reach an agreement on hospital funding.

“At this point in time we don’t have budget numbers yet,” Langrish said. “But we have made huge investments since we took office.”

Langrish said in these “challenging economic times” the ministry must consult with hospitals when designing the budget, but OPSEU is left out of the conversation.

The Rouge Valley Medical System originally planned the layoffs in 2008.

There have not been any more layoffs and there are no plans for more layoffs in the future, said David Brazeau, RVMS director of public affairs.

“A little more than three years ago we announced the deficit elimination plan,” Brazeau said. “[The layoffs are] not over and above. It’s completely consistent with what we announced in March 2008.”

The layoffs have not affected services, Brazeau said. “Patient volume has actually increased slightly since the plan began and we’ve maintained all of our services.”

The union has responded to the terminations by appealing for political support across the province.

“We had a meeting with the health minister last week to address some of these issue and we’ve left it with her,” Janson said. “[The minster] suggested that some of these layoffs could actually be rescinded, although it doesn’t look very likely when we look at the nature of a lot of layoffs.”

The union has also been contacting local MPPs.

“We’re hoping that the government will see that it doesn’t make much sense to lay off people while they’re trying to stimulate the economy and create jobs,” Janson said.