On May 29th, the CEO of Eastern Health called union leaders to a meeting for the purpose of announcing the elimination of 550 full time equivalent positions, 385 of which are actual positions. This was the first time that NAPE had any indication of this course of action by Eastern Health. In fact, we were totally blindsided by this decision.
We were informed that Eastern Health had engaged a consulting firm to conduct a peer review to assess how they were performing relative to other Health Care Boards in the country. It is our understanding that the consulting firm found Eastern Health to be the worst managed in the country.
Unfortunately, Eastern Health tried to deflect attention away from their poor management skills onto the backs of some of our members. In my opinion, part of this effort included a deliberate and clear attempt to mislead the public as to the wages paid to some of our members.
This was a shameful act on behalf of Eastern Health which has caused great hardship for those targeted employees. Irrespective of the inaccuracy of her statement, we make no apologies for negotiating well deserved rates of pay and benefits for NAPE members.
These cuts are being portrayed as having no impact on quality of care. This is ludicrous. You cannot take the equivalent of 550 positions out of the system and expect to have no negative impact on patient care. By their own admission, Eastern Health is going to reduce constant care. As well, staff on leave will not be replaced which will lead to a reduction in the amount of hours front line staff can dedicate to direct patient care. In our judgement, this will place patients at risk.
The real issue here is a case of mismanagement which has created a deficit for several years. Instead of dealing with the source of the problem – mismanagement – Eastern Health is adopting a course of action which we believe will cause a reduction in the levels of patient care and cause undue hardship to the staff on the front lines.
The decision to move some of the food service to private contractors will see the transfer of scarce health care dollars to for-profit, private sector companies. We argue that the approach should be the elimination of private sector contracts and have the service provided by the dedicated and hard working staff of Eastern Health. Experience at Eastern Health has proven that the privatization of some health care services is inefficient and more costly. They have tried this tactic before and it has been a failure.
The decisions being made due to the mismanagement of Eastern Health negatively impacts patients and staff and is having a devastating impact on the morale of the employees. We are disappointed that the provincial government has not stepped in to stop the actions of Eastern Health. At the end of the day, government is responsible for overseeing the health care system. Faced with a report indicating that Eastern Health is poorly managed, government had an obligation to hold the senior management team at Eastern Health responsible. Instead they are letting Eastern Health attack staff and reduce care to patients. We find this totally unacceptable.
This agenda must be exposed for what it is. Over the coming days and weeks we will continue to inform the public of the real affects of the announced cuts. To achieve this we will be meeting with our public relations firm. This is a fight for all NAPE members not just the affected employees. If left unchallenged these negative and shameful cuts will spread. We owe it to our members, to our families and to the people of the province, to attack reductions to patient care. Tomorrow it may well be you or I who need the care that is being eliminated.
We will also be meeting with management of Eastern Health for three purposes:
to outline our disagreement with the way this was handled;
to get additional details on how they intend to implement the cuts and the impact on our members; and
to ensure that your rights under your collective agreements are adhered to.
Health care workers deserve better and so do the people of our province.