Ottawa hospitals facing job cuts

The Ottawa Hospital announced today it will remove 36.9 full-time equivalent positions in order to increase efficiency.

The cuts drew criticism from CUPE Local 4000, one of the unions representing hospital workers.

“I just don’t get it anymore, who’s going to do the work? We’re going to have an empty building with a roof on it, full of suits and they’re not going to be a lot of help to people,” said Rob Driskell, president of the union.

Of the proposed cuts, 16 positions are already vacant and only 10 positions are held by CUPE workers. The other 10.9 positions are filled by workers from unions other than CUPE.

The union represents approximately 3,800 healthcare employees at the Heart Institute, Irving Greenberg Cancer Centre, Civic, General and Riverside campus.

The hospital has cut 402 jobs since 2011 as a way for hospital management to meet the shortfall in their budget, said Driskell. However, it has been at the expense of frontline workers.

“There are promotions and increases in salary for upper management, but not so much for the support staff. It’s just more job cuts.”

Cameron Love, chief operating officer for the Ottawa Hospital, said it had started looking for ways to improve efficiency in 2012 when it first began encountering budget constraints.

Love said he can’t confirm the total number of job removals since 2011, but said the hospital hasn’t had any employees leave involuntarily in the past two-and-a-half years.

He also said that management wage increases are matched with the yearly raises of CUPE workers and that the number of executives hasn’t changed since 2008.

“On top of all that the executive salaries have been frozen for five years . . . that’s a legislated act,” Love added.

Driskell said he emailed The Ottawa Hospital CEO Jack Kitts, demanding that he be present at the meeting to explain why the job cuts were necessary and received a response from Kitts saying he was “disappointed “ in Driskell’s tone and stressing the importance of working together. 

“They won’t even sit down and talk about alternatives. They just say, ‘This is the way it is, we’ve decided and we’re not talking to you, here are your cuts,’” said Driskell. He said that if the hospital continues to refuse to discuss alternatives, the issue might end up in court.

Love disagreed with Driskell’s statement and said the unions were given notice of the changes well in advance and that the hospital is always open to considering alternative solutions.

“We employ 12,000 people. To figure out where I can find positions for 10 people? I’m 99.9 per cent confident none of them are going to have to leave their employment. They’ll be in a different job, but they won’t have to involuntarily leave,” he said.

Representatives from CUPE will be sitting down with hospital management for a “re-deployment committee” meeting on Thursday to discuss the changes.