11/07/2014 09:54 EST | Updated 01/07/2015 05:59 EST

MUHC superhospital to cut 10 per cent of specialist staff

The McGill University Health Centre​ is slashing its roster of medical specialists, but Health Minister Gaétan Barrette is reluctant to call the change “a cut."

The change represents the loss of about 85 positions at the new MUHC superhospital, either through attrition or the redistribution of doctors.

The administration at the MUHC said Thursday it knew the changes were coming.

“The clinical plan for the MUHC, which we are now putting into place, does dictate a smaller number of beds and a smaller footprint for the outpatient visits," Dr. Ewa Sidorowicz, the director of professional services at the MUHC.  

Barrette says for the MUHC’s plan to work, specialists’ expertise must be spread over the entire hospital network in the regions.

“The plan was to take action so that patients in the suburbs would see services migrate from the MUHC and from McGill to their area,” said Barrette.

But the plan has patient advocates worried 

Paul Brunet of Quebec's council for patient protection is hesitant to buy into the new system.

“Should we trust these kind of declarations?” he said. 

“We'll see when patients tell us eventually they were taken care of in their own region because their specialist was transferred."

The head of Quebec's medical specialists federation is also wary.

"Hospitals [in the regions] are already full. There are no operating rooms that have availability to work and see patients," said Diane Francoeur.

Francoeur says doctors who do leave the MUHC might not have the resources and facilities they need to do their jobs at smaller centres.

The MUHC superhospital is scheduled to open in the spring of 2015.