Union says HHS plans to eliminate 80 jobs
‘The community will not stand by’ while hospitals are gutted, says CUPE official Michael Hurley
The Canadian Union of Public Employees claims Hamilton Health Sciences is looking to cut dozens of jobs in the fiscal year ending March 31.
The hospital network has to reduce costs by $20 million to balance the books by March 31, starting with the immediate departure of three senior executives.
One of the strategies being considered is eliminating roughly 80 CUPE jobs, said Dave Murphy, president of Local 7800.
He said some of the jobs are already vacant and affected staff will likely be offered other positions at HHS.
“There is no question that beds and staff will have to be cut,” Murphy said.
CEO Rob MacIsaac was not available for comment Thursday.
HHS planned to cut nearly 100 full-time jobs last fiscal year when it needed to find $30 million in cost reductions to balance its roughly $1.2-billion budget.
At the same time, St. Joseph’s estimated it would have to eliminate 136 jobs to cut $26 million from its $550-million budget.
This fiscal year, St. Joseph’s is looking find $7 million in savings.
“The community will not stand by while the government guts these hospitals,” said Michael Hurley, president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions.
“We will certainly do everything in our power to organize support for a special infusion of funding.”
HHS is undergoing an operational review to determine how to cope with severe overcrowding and inflation driving the annual funding shortfall.
In addition, Mark Haley, a former chief human resources officer at McMaster University, is being brought in for six months to make recommendations.
No information was available Thursday on how much the operational review and human resources department assessment would cost HHS.
However, Haley was paid $284,000 in total compensation when he did a similar review for Alberta Health Services four years ago.
His pay from August 2013 to December 2013 worked out to roughly $56,800 a month.
It’s also unknown so far whether any of the three departing executives will receive severance payments.
Their contracts signed in 2014 outline a minimum of one year’s salary plus four weeks for each complete year. The combined maximum is 104 weeks.
The base salary of the executives is $345,000 for Renato Discenza, $260,000 for Frank Naus and $200,000 for Andrew Doppler.
Ontario Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins said in a statement Wednesday he expects “service to patients will not be impacted by any budget decisions.”
But opposition MPPs and Murphy said that is not a realistic view as Hamilton’s hospitals look to cut costs.
“Hospitals can only cut so much without cutting patients’ services,” said Progressive Conservative health critic Jeff Yurek. “It’s the sixth or seventh year hospitals have had to make cuts.”
Ontario’s hospitals endured four years of budget freezes by the province and two years of increases below inflation.
HHS alone has already cut costs by $120 million since 2011.
“We know it’s already affecting patient care,” said NDP Hamilton Mountain MPP Monique Taylor. “More cuts are definitely going to further impact patient services.”
HHS and St. Joseph’s blame much of the shortfall on hospital overcrowding, which is forcing them to open unfunded beds. On average, 80 to 100 unfunded beds operate each day between Hamilton General and Juravinski hospitals and 25 at the Charlton Avenue East site at St. Joseph’s.
HHS was at nearly 110 per cent occupancy on Tuesday and has averaged 105 per cent since October.
A big part of the problem is patients stuck in hospital while waiting for other services like home care or long-term care. Nearly one in four beds was taken up by patients ready to be discharged at St. Joseph’s hospital during the week of July 10.
Nearly one in five beds is currently blocked at HHS.
Eric Hoskins: Patients not affected