SBGHC cuts more jobs


By Kristen Shane


South Bruce Grey Health Centre is cutting the equivalent of 14.16 full-time jobs and changing the way it serves food to patients, staff and visitors at its four sites, including the Kincardine hospital.


Currently, hospital cafeteria workers serve food to paying customers. By November, that will likely have changed, said South Bruce Grey Health Centre CEO and president Paul Davies last week. Visitors and staff would get food from vending machines and, if needed, re-heat it themselves.


Although fresh sandwiches and salads would still be available, people staying in the hospital would also be served more meals that have been frozen and reheated, rather than getting their portion of bulk food made by in-house dietary department staff. The Walkerton hospital would receive cases of the frozen food to be distributed to it and the hospital corporation’s other sites in Chesley, Durham and Kincardine.


A SBGHC news release last Wednesday said the change comes as a result of a report early last year that compared SBGHC to other similarly-sized Ontario hospitals. It indicated that the local corporation was spending double that of others, per patient meal day.


After the corporation’s contract with its current food services provider, Aramark, expired in the spring, it shopped around for a cheaper supplier but received no response other than a higher-priced Aramark bid. So, the corporation has stayed with Aramark month to month while paying a consultant to review its food services. Based on the consultant’s recommendations, hospital officials decided to cut ties with Aramark and run their own dietary department.


The move would save the hospital corporation about $500,000 a year, said the release. That’s almost a third of its total dietary department budget of $1.6 million.


In a phone interview last week, Davies said the number of beds at each hospital has shrunk in recent years, but the dietary department hasn’t.


“With our fluctuating occupancy and our much lower occupancy, that old model of food preparation and distribution, it creates a lot of wastage and it also has a really high staffing complement,” he said.


Staff currently make more food than necessary, he said. With the new model, they would only reheat the amount of hot food needed. It would also be easier to serve patients at off-hours, if needed, because food would only have to be put on a plate and reheated, not prepared fresh.


Convenient, maybe; nourishing, maybe not, said Rick Janson, a health care campaigns officer with Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which represents the workers whose jobs are on the chopping block.


“It’s not very conducive to a speedy recovery, food like that,” he said, from his Toronto office last week. “This is the number one thing people complain about when they’re in a hospital.”


The quality, by and large, would be the same, said Davies. He noted that a lot of restaurant food is reheated as well. Staff and patients will be taste-testing the new hospital food over the next few months, he said.


At the same time, management would work with the 65 members of the dietary and housekeeping department’s union to shuffle jobs based on seniority. The loss of about 14 full-time equivalent food services jobs is to affect 21 actual employees, because some of them work on a part-time or casual basis. They won’t all be laid off, said Davies. Some may be bumped to housekeeping or other comparable jobs; some may decide to retire early or leave the job.


“It just continues to be a depletion of our services,” said Barb Fisher, a Friends of the Kincardine Hospital member, last week.


She noted that it’s the second time this month that the hospital corporation has announced job cuts. A senior manager said Feb. 4 that the hospital was slashing the equivalent of three full-time jobs in its health records department, at sites undetermined as of yet, with a goal to make operations more efficient. The decision was prompted by the same report that triggered the latest job cuts.


“We’re seeing this right now all across the province,” said Janson. He said he gets calls about new healthcare layoffs almost every day it seems. Many hospital managers are “pressing the panic button,” he said, because the provincial government has not yet told them how much it will increase hospital funding this year.


Hospitals need about three per cent more just to stay afloat, said Janson. Anticipating that they might get less, some managers are serving notice to employees now, because most unions require several months’ lead time before the employee is out of work.

cuts more jobs?

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