Big job cuts coming to Eastern Health: Liberals

James McLeod
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Formal announcement to be made today

Susan Sullivan

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball was sounding the alarm Monday afternoon about impending cuts coming to the province’s largest health authority.

Ball started off question period in the House by saying he’s heard Eastern Health will hold a news conference today to lay out the details of 552 layoffs and $43 million in budget savings.

“I ask the premier: Can you confirm these cuts and tell us what health-care services will be impacted?” Ball asked.

The question clearly came a day earlier than the government expected.

Eastern Health sent out a notice that it will, in fact, hold a news conference to announce “operational improvements.”

Neither the health authority nor Health Minister Susan Sullivan would confirm there would be cuts.

Speaking to reporters after question period, Sullivan didn’t say Ball was wrong.

“I think the best thing to do, as opposed to fear-mongering and telling the people of Newfoundland and Labrador based on speculation what might happen, I think the best thing for us to do is wait until tomorrow,” Sullivan said Monday.

Whatever it is, all signs point to something significant.

Sullivans said there would be briefings for the media and MHAs ahead of the news conference, and Eastern Health department heads and managers are already being brought into meetings to talk about the upcoming announcement.

In the lead-up to the provincial budget, rolled out by the government last month, Premier Kathy Dunderdale made it clear that the government was looking for budget cuts and cost savings.

However, at the time she made it clear that front-line services in a number of areas — including health care — were off-limits for budget cuts.

On Monday, Sullivan repeated that commitment.

“Our resolve has not changed,” Sullivan said. “There will not be any cuts in programs and services.

“The announcement that you will hear tomorrow will lay out some particular initiatives that Eastern Health wishes to embark upon, but we have made our commitment firm to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador; there will not be cuts in programs and services.”

Ball said he doesn’t believe it.

“It’s going to be very difficult to make cuts as significant as this without impacting front-line services or programs,” he said. “These are significant.”

It’s been clear for a while that the province wants to take on health-care spending, which has become the single largest share of government spending.

The $2.4-billion, health-care budget represents more than 37 cents of every dollar the government spends.

During pre-budget consultations this year, Finance Minister Tom Marshall fretted over growing health-care spending.

Earlier this year, speaking to The Telegram, Sullivan said she’s not looking to cut health-care spending, but she’s hoping to keep it from growing any further.

“It’s a huge challenge, but I’m happy to say all four of the CEOs understood the challenge, embraced it, they’ve gone back to their respective health authorities now with a view to seeing what they can do to find those efficiencies,” she said in January. “What I’m aiming for is to find efficiency and to find effective ways to deliver that health care within the province, without in any way compromising quality patient care.”

Thus far there has been no word on cuts or “efficiencies” within the province’s other three health authorities.

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Eastern Health department

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • George
    May 29, 2012 - 09:17

    It seems to me that our conservative Government is now taking a page from Harper!! How will any organization afford to cut 552 jobs and still provide the same level of service. Get ready for the next public inquiry!!!

  • Charles
    May 29, 2012 - 08:48

    Mr Ball...are you saying...if Liberal was in power...they wouldn't try and make cuts...while at the sametime improving the system,

  • Concerned Citizen
    May 29, 2012 - 07:49

    I hope they cut middle management. I've heard from friends that they have so-called managers that don't even have anyone under them. Other than managaement who can they afford to cut?? I mean they can't even cut cleaning staff....the hospitals are not cleaned enough now!

    • Marie
      May 29, 2012 - 22:29

      I work in a hospital and we know the cuts are going to be in the support staff departments. The government are saying there are going to be no cuts to services. Maybe not ,because thats what the government wants the public to see. What is going to be cut is housekeeping, linen, supplies department, kitchen staff etc... The people that are working like slaves trying to keep our hospitals clean, these are the people they are picking on because the public dont see these people behind the scenes. Since Eastern Health was created the number of managers upon managers upon assistants upon secretaries has exploded. But they continue to cut housekeeping & linen & and the people who distribute the supplies. Bullies. Picking on the little people.

  • Get Rid of Dunderdale
    May 29, 2012 - 06:33

    I have already waited greater than a year to have an orthopedic procedure done. What's next to cut? I can tell you if Danny Williams was still premier, this would not be happening. We need someone with a spine that can tow the line for the long haul....Although I don't see ANY of the current political parties as having anyone that could do that....a business sense and a backbone!