Allison Jones, The Canadian Press
TORONTO – More than 400 health workers are being laid off in Ontario as the progressive conservative government moves to merge 20 agencies into one.
The 416 people in “administrative positions” such as communications, planning, data analysis and financial services will lose their jobs and another 409 vacant positions will be eliminated, health officials said.
The province is consolidating 14 local health integration networks, Cancer Care Ontario, eHealth Ontario and other agencies in a new organization called Ontario Health.
Prime Minister Doug Ford repeatedly pledged during the election last year that “not a single person will lose his job” under his government, but denied Wednesday that he has broken that promise.
“I will continue with my appointment: ‘No first-line person will lose a job,’ ‘he said near Sudbury, Ont.
Ford’s message has changed in recent months to add the “first line” qualifier to its original promise, and Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Wednesday that that’s what the prime minister meant all along.
“Certainly, my understanding of the prime minister’s comments was that there will be no job losses on the front line,” he said in an interview. “Then, it has been clear in that.”
Elliott said that while some health workers may be hired again in similar roles once the health agency of Ontario begins to occupy their administrative positions, not all will.
“Ontario Health is making their own calculations regarding their work requirements in the administrative office area and we will talk to them about it very soon, but unfortunately I do not think it’s likely that all those people who are laid off today will be able to be employed by Ontario Health, “he said.
Each agency that has its own administrative and administrative support unnecessarily duplicates operations and takes money from patient care, Elliott said.
The elimination of back-office positions will allow the government to put more money in front-line care, he said. Cancer Care Ontario has already used $ 1.6 million in office savings to fund medical exploration services in Sudbury, Elliott said.
The government projects that the system’s overall changes will save $ 350 million per year by 2021-22, and a senior official said recently that $ 250 million will be saved this year.
The news of the loss of health jobs comes the same week that a treatment center for children with disabilities announced that it will eliminate 291 full-time positions, and that it will return to 178 people with nine-month contracts, leaving 113 unemployed, as a result of government changes to the funding of autism.
The new Democrat Marit Stiles said that none of Ford’s promises about the work have been fulfilled.
“Doug Ford said no one would lose his job … then he said that no first-line worker would lose his job,” he said. “That just was not true, I was inventing things.”
Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod said in a statement Tuesday that there will likely be more “personnel changes” related to autism, but she anticipates that as the program changes to provide funds directly to families instead of service providers, there will be more demand for therapy. And that will lead to more jobs.
The program originally announced in February would have given each family on the waiting list up to $ 20,000 a year until their child turns six and $ 5,000 a year until the age of 18, but families protested that those amounts were not enough, especially for children with severe needs whose therapy can cost up to $ 80,000 a year.
MacLeod finally backed off, promising to double the program’s budget to approximately $ 600 million and see how to add needs-based supports with a committee of experts.
But families are skeptical of the claims, complain that they have not yet received money (the government says the checks are in the mail) and have yet to see any evidence of the double budget.
The prime minister expressed frustration on Wednesday for continued protests by families with autism.
“Are we helping them and are they protesting?” Ford said. “I do not know, I question that.”