10/22/2015 13:41 EDT | Updated 10/22/2016 01:12 EDT

Ontario nurses warn hospital cuts and layoffs increase risk of patients dying

TORONTO — The Ontario Nurses' Association says hospital patients are suffering and being put at increased risk of dying because of cuts to registered nursing positions.

Union president Linda Haslam-Stroud says even though the Liberals claim to have hired 24,000 more nurses since they were elected to government in 2003, more than 600 registered nursing jobs have been cut at Ontario hospitals this year.

She says some of the cuts are being done by "stealth" as hospitals fail to replace nurses who retire or move to other positions, while others are outright layoffs.

Haslam-Stroud says the nursing positions being cut in hospitals are not being created in the community to provide more home-based care to patients, and the nurses don't like or want the lower-paying jobs outside of hospitals.

Premier Kathleen Wynne says there is "a transition" as hospitals realize they need fewer registered nurses as the government moves to provide more community-based care.

The nurses union says the cuts are leaving hospital patients stuck on stretchers in hallways and closets while others are sent home too soon with little-to-no community support to provide the ongoing care they need.

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The Canadian Press