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Ontario government questioned on Stevenson Memorial Hospital nurse layoffs

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The stresses facing Stevenson Memorial Hospital were at the forefront of debate at Queen's Park Tuesday as the official opposition questioned the government's decision to allow the layoffs of over a dozen nurses.

Union leaders say health care workers are burnt out amid consistent shortages throughout the Alliston hospital, but still, 13 registered and practical nurses are set to lose their jobs at the end of the month, drawing the attention of provincial politicians.

NDP leader Marit Styles and interim Liberal leader John Fraser both criticized the move, with Styles questioning the province's decision to let go of nurses when "highway health care is at an all-time high" and Fraser stating that cutting nursing positions "doesn't make sense" given the current nursing shortage in the province.

Health Minister Sylvia Jones defended the move, arguing the hospital officials know best.

"For the member opposite to suggest that she knows better what is happening at Stevenson Memorial more so than the management team, the president and CEO speaks volumes about what she understands about the public health system," Jones added.

Last week, nurses were informed of the layoffs after the Ministry of Health said it was pulling back funding that the hospital used to open up eight beds in January 2021.

The government said the funding was only temporary to help with pandemic pressures.

Premier Doug Ford said they would look into the issue.

"We don't hire nurses. The province doesn't. It's the hospitals that actually hire the nurses, but that seems like quite a bit. We're bringing more nurses on board, and I'll make a phone call and find out where's the justification," he stated.

Simcoe-Grey MPP Brian Saunderson said he spoke with the hospital's CEO and backs his decisions. He stressed the funding was a temporary measure, adding the move was not a cut but an expiration.

OPSEU, which represents the laid-off nurses, said the hospital is short-staffed in every department.

The layoffs are set to take effect on March 31, but the nurses will continue to be paid for the next four months because of the collective agreement.

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