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Saskatchewan unions disappointed over Saskatoon Health Region layoffs

WATCH ABOVE: A number of health workers find themselves unemployed after a round of job cuts across the Saskatoon Health Region Thursday. Its CEO says the goal is to keep a high standard of patient care, but some worry the lost positions could make that unachievable. Joel Senick reports.

Members of a local labour union are “extremely disappointed” after the Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) announced 70 job cuts Thursday in an effort to balance its budget, according to the union’s president.

“This announcement contradicts the principles of our partnership agreement with the government,” said SEUI-West president Barbara Cape in a statement Friday. The union represents roughly 4,500 health region employees.

“We agreed to support the principles of better health, better care, better value and better teams.”

READ MORE: Saskatoon Health Region to lay off approximately 70 people

Cape confirmed in a separate interview that 30 of her members were included in the round of layoffs. She said affected members held positions in various sectors,  including security and care aid.

The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) president, Tracy Zambory, also confirmed Friday that 12 of their members were included in the cuts. She said nurses already felt short-staffed, even before the job action.

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“Registered nurses are troubled, we are afraid that there’s going to be negative impact on patient safety,” Zambory said.

“We know that when there are more registered nurses at the bedside that it’s a positive impact for patients.”

The layoffs were part of a plan to eliminate a roughly $30 million projected shortfall this fiscal year in the SHR’s budget, according to CEO and president Dan Florizone.

“What I am looking forward to is a month and continuation of months where revenues match expenses,” Florizone said.

Saskatchewan Health Minister Jim Reiter said he trusts the health region’s strategy to tackle deficit and added that his office is in regular communication with Florizone.

“Obviously you hate to ever see anybody being issued a layoff notice, I feel terrible for the people affected by this,” Reiter said.

“We trust that the health region is making what they feel are the appropriate decisions.”

READ MORE: Saskatoon Health Region facing $30M deficit in 2016-17

Reiter added that the province is also looking at how to better spend health dollars by examining how many health regions are needed in the province and they have committed to save around $7 million in administration costs.

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The Saskatchewan NDP criticized the government Friday over the cuts, saying in a news release that the action will be “devastating, direct, and immediate” on patient care.

“Simply put, the Sask. Party cannot continue to underfund and cut the healthcare system generations of Saskatchewan people and governments of all stripes have worked so hard to build,” said NDP health critic Danielle Chartier in a statement.

“Our hospitals are bursting at the seams and nurses and other healthcare workers are overworked as it is.”

Reiter responded to the critique by accusing the opposition of “playing politics” with the issue.

“They just viewed it as an opportunity to bash the government,” Reiter said.