Thursday, January 23, 2014

News Article - Horizon cuts radiology jobs



CHRIS MORRIS Legislature Bureau 
January 22, 2014

FREDERICTON – The Horizon Health Network says its decision to eliminate 12 positions in X-ray departments in Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton will not impact patient care or wait times.

Daniel Hickey, regional director for Horizon’s diagnostic imaging department, said Wednesday eight radiology technicians were laid off and four vacant positions eliminated in a move designed to streamline services and cut costs.

The staff reductions will save the health network about $500,000 annually.

“The positions that were affected through the layoffs were in the area of general radiology,” Hickey said in an interview.

“We are not anticipating as a result of the layoffs any increase in waiting times for general radiology. This decision was largely taken as an attempt to standardize and look for improved operations and efficiencies. It is not anticipated to have a detrimental impact on wait times or services. The hours of operation and services remain unchanged in those particular areas.”

New Brunswick Union president Susie Proulx-Daigle said two of the layoffs are in Moncton, three in Saint John and three in Fredericton.

“How can this not affect patient care?” she said.

“These are front-line workers in X-ray and one in nuclear medicine. It also raises serious recruitment and retention issues. Our members in these areas tell us they’re very busy and already felt their departments were short-staffed. With fewer people now to do the work, how can it be more efficient?”

Opposition Liberal health critic Don Arseneault slammed the job cuts as a direct attack on health care in New Brunswick.

He said network administrators are slicing front-line health jobs, but adding to their own administration ranks. Just a few days ago, Horizon announced the appointment of a regional director for nursing practice.

“We are continuously sending home front-line workers yet we are beefing up the administration,” Arseneault said in an interview.

“That’s the problem I see with the direction the health networks are going in – it’s very top heavy and the ranks of the front-lines are getting thinner and thinner. It is going to hurt patient care.”

Arseneault said the layoffs are surprising since radiology technicians can be difficult for the province to recruit and retain.

“We don’t have a clear plan other than cut, cut, cut; we have to send more people home,” Arseneault said of the province’s direction in health care.

“That’s the message we’re getting from this government. But how is that going to mean better delivery of the health-care services New Brunswickers expect and need?”

Hickey referred to a government-ordered study last year that reported that $236 million in efficiencies could be found within the province’s hospitals.

The study, called for by the Office of Health System Renewal and completed by consulting firm Grant Thornton, analyzed the province’s 22 hospitals against similar-sized institutions across the country.

The results found New Brunswick could eliminate 4.4 million hospital staff working hours – and millions of dollars in wages – if it could meet the national average in a number of categories.

It also reported significant savings could be found in each of the province’s hospitals.

“The consultant identified opportunities for improved efficiencies and operations within the health care system,” Hickey said.

“Within Horizon, various programs looked at their operations with a view to identifying efficiencies. Within diagnostic imaging we looked at our various services across all 17 facilities and identified a number of areas for potential improvement. As a result of that exercise and discussions within the department, there were eight positions that were laid off and four vacant positions that were also eliminated for a total of 12.”

The Horizon and Vitalité health networks announced major job-cutting plans last year.

Horizon said it would eliminate 131 positions in the current fiscal year as part of the plan to trim more than $21 million from the health-care budget.

Vitalité also announced plans to eliminate 400 jobs over three years.

Horizon CEO John McGarry said last week the network is facing major fiscal challenges in the coming year.

McGarry said the bottom line is that Horizon needs to find one- to two-per-cent savings every year going forward in order to live within a two-per-cent growth model in its budget. This is a tasking prospect because the system tends to grow by about three to four per cent, h