OPSEU calls on McGuinty government to save Kingston mental health services

KINGSTON, ON, Feb. 16 /CNW/ - The Ontario Public Service Employees Union is calling on the McGuinty government to take steps to protect mental health services after a minimum of 10 layoffs was announced last week at Providence Care hospital.

The layoffs follow a pattern of similar cuts across the province in the run-up to this spring's provincial budget.

"Cutting public sector jobs is a strange way to stimulate the struggling economy," said Warren (Smokey) Thomas. "We won't pay down the deficit by putting Ontarians out of work."

Hospitals have been told to plan for three scenarios - a funding freeze, a one per cent and two per cent increase.

The cuts will impact services around integrating mental health patients with the community and providing outreach services. This includes individualized counselling around vocational services and leisure life skills.

The impending reorganization will see the number of nurses (RN's and RPNs) on the floors decrease and take away front-line allied health staff. It will also see a decrease in the number of unregulated health professionals.

"The province and LHIN have told us that mental health is a major priority," says Sheryl Ferguson, president of OPSEU Local 431 at Providence Care. "It's time for them to stop talking about it and take action to save these services."

The cuts in Kingston ignore a recent consultant's report on the operation of the hospital including improvement of staff to patient ratios. No mention of management jobs has yet been made, although the report called for the management model to be fixed.

Annual savings are expected to be $2.5 million, although only $1.7 million will be saved in 2010/11.

Both the Providence Care's St. Mary's of the Lake and Mental Health Services sites targeted their local OPSEU presidents for layoff, suggesting a new chill in labour relations at the hospital.

The cuts also follow on the heels of a $1 million grant Providence Care received last year to support programs aimed at recruitment and retention.

SOURCE Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)

For further information: For further information: contact Sheryl Ferguson at (613) 453-6757

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