The Ontario Nurses' Association says recent nursing cuts at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance will hurt patient care.
The ONA says this is a direct result of Ontario hospitals balancing their budgets at the expense of RN care.
ONA Vice-President Vicki McKenna says the cuts will result in less access to emergency care.
"The emergency strategy, they're adding a physician, which is good. They probably need an additional physician in those surge periods. However, who do they think sees the patients first? It's the nurses," says McKenna.
The Canadian Institute for Health Information says Ontario continues to have the worst RN-to-population ratio in all of Canada with just 703 RNs per 100,000 population compared to an average of 839 per 100,000 for the rest of the country.
Officials with the CKHA previously said they are confident the 41 cuts can be made through retirement, termination, or resignation because the average annual turnover rate is around 70 staff per year.
CKHA CEO Lori Marshall says since September of 2016, the hospital has cut 19 leadership positions, which is a 22% reduction in management and $1.9 million in savings.
McKenna says cutting these positions will mean the loss of more than 25,000 hours of direct hands-on RN patient care.
"They're cutting five full time staff out of that emergency department and that's a huge impact. It's not a huge emergency department and it's very busy there. They're not sitting around waiting for something to happen, they're busy now constantly," McKenna says.
McKenna says the cuts will have a significant impact on safe, quality patient care, particularly in the area of women’s and children’s services.
"When you reduce nurses, you're adding workload to other nurses who are left behind. When you increase nurses' workload, they have less time to spend with patients, there's higher complication rates and people tend to stay in hospital longer," says McKenna.