KINGSTON – Facing $6 million in budget cuts, Providence Care is telling staff today of one of the biggest job losses in the history of the former Kingston Psychiatric hospital.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union has been told the mental health facility will be shedding as many as 80-90 jobs to meet their target reduction of 60 full-time equivalent positions by next spring. This represents almost one in five jobs at the hospital.
The job reductions are part of restructuring of local health care, although the union says the planning it is based on is 20 years out-of-date.
“Providence is already under considerable stress,” says OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “The situation is volatile as too few staff are trying to manage patients with increasing care needs. This raises questions of both safety and quality of care.”
The union says declining beds are also challenging the ability of those in need to access in-patient care. Workers on the hospital’s assertive community treatment teams are telling the union that they are already having difficulty returning patients to the hospital due to the shortage of available beds.
The union is urging both the hospital and the South East Local Health Integration Network to do a fresh assessment of need in the region and put the brakes on staff reductions.
“The Ministry of Health is still working from projections calculated in the mid-1990s as part of the work of the Health Restructuring Commission,” says Thomas. “A lot has changed since then, including new work done by the Mental Health Commission of Canada.”
The union is also asking that staff be consulted on the restructuring plan, including the transition to the new hospital.
An important consideration is that Providence Care’s new hospital is a privatized P3 hospital. It will have less beds and cost significantly more. The staff cuts in advance of it’s opening are partially to reduce costs to pay for the hospital and to have the layoffs before the private hospital opens so that they can claim the reductions are not the result of the new hospital.