Ontario Shores is eliminating 55 positions at the former Whitby Mental Health Centre in order to cope with underfunding from the Ministry of Health.
Forty of the positions will receive layoff notices, while 15 workers will be redeployed following contracting-out of their work.
"Given the priority the province is placing on mental health, these layoffs come as a surprise," says Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the 130,000 member Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). "The ministry of health should talk to the ministry of finance – one is trying to create jobs by stimulating the economy, the other is eliminating jobs at an astonishing rate across the province."
Ontario Shores is eliminating front line workers from nine different classifications covering all three bargaining units. These job losses will impact patient care.
Under the terms of their collective agreement with OPSEU, Ontario Shores is obliged to find positions for members who lose their jobs due to contracting out, however, the union is concerned the 15 workers may only have a temporary landing.
"There have been so many programs cut at Ontario Shores that patients are left on the wards with nothing to do," says Thomas.
The union is also upset that patients have been targeted with an increase to the cost of food at the canteen and the lack of transportation to and from appointments in the community.
With cuts to transportation, OPSEU questions how forensic patients will get to court appearances and to off-site medical appointments.
In addition to eliminating 55 positions, Ontario Shores has announced that it is closing one of two Beacon House sites. The Oshawa site will now be closed permanently. Beacon House is a residential treatment program serving individuals with complex personality problems that have resulted in psychiatric hospitalizations and frequent involvement with community services.
Ontario Shores has also closed Challenging Directions Enterprises, a Whitby-based outpatient workshop that provides work experience to 75-80 clients each day. The sheltered workshop closed its doors February 23rd.
OPSEU believe the layoffs are a partial response to a growing legion of managers being employed at Ontario Shores. This expanding list of managers is beginning to displace programming space for clients as Ontario Shores seeks to find new office space to accommodate them.