The transfer of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Hospital to the province of Quebec marks the loss of the last federally run veterans' hospital in Canada. The implications of this transfer are significant in terms of both the provision of veterans' care and for employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Concerns about the transfer of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue hospital were raised by Official Opposition Veterans Affairs Critic Peter Stoffer who noted that job cuts due to budget-trimming exercises will negatively impact the standard of care provided to veterans. While the Department of Veterans Affairs initially planned to cut 500 jobs to trim its budget, the potential cuts have now increased due to the transfer of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, as its more than 1,295 staff will no longer be federal employees after the transfer of the hospital to the province of Quebec. This means that it is quite possible Veterans Affairs Canada could lose up to 40 per cent of its staff.
Undoubtedly, a loss of 40 per cent of employees will have a serious impact on the standard of care, programs and services provided by Veterans Affairs. It is simply not possible to maintain the same quality of service delivery with nearly half the number of staff.
While the federal government maintains it can cut 500 jobs through attrition and better planning, these job cuts will be accompanied by slashing $226 million from the Veterans Affairs budget and cutting five to 10 per cent in funding.
In light of these cuts, it is important to remember that the federal government has a responsibility to provide specialized health care services to veterans as part of its moral obligation to those who accepted the condition of unlimited liability in the service of Canada. Certainly, cuts to jobs and funding at Veterans Affairs and losses of beds available to veterans in hospitals and long-term care facilities indicates that the government is not upholding this responsibility.
These cuts have raised concerns for the future of Parkwood Veterans Hospital in London which has faced downsizing over the past few years. Cuts to Veterans Affairs inevitably cut the quality of service provided and limit the number of veterans to whom these services can be provided.
Instead of closing down facilities for veterans and transferring veteran hospital care to the provinces, the federal government should expand access to services and transform these facilities into Veterans Health Care Centres of Excellence that can be used by all Canadian Forces and RCMP veterans and their families.