The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is transitioning service between hospitals in the city.

The WRHA said it will be consolidating the mental health program at Health Sciences Centre, Victoria Hospital and St. Boniface Hospital by the end of 2018. Its surgery program will also be consolidated primarily between Grace Hospital, Concordia, HSC and St. Boniface.

“The expertise required for the delivery of specialty services has been spread too thinly throughout our region for too long,” said Lori Lamont, acting COO and vice president of nursing and health professions, in a news release.

“This next wave of consolidation brings mental health resources together in concentrated areas, allowing us to bring patients with similar needs together in order to offer more streamlined care and less movement for patients who are already in distress.”

The WRHA said 51 nurses in the mental health program will be able to move from Grace and Seven Oaks to opportunities at HSC and Victoria Hospital by the end of this year. It said as surgeries move 90 nurses will also move from Seven Oaks, and some specialty orthopedic services will move to Concordia.

The WRHA said it will be updating master rotations at all hospitals in order to address staffing levels and concentration of services with patient demand. Those changes will be complete by the end of 2019.

The Manitoba Nurses Union responded to the WRHA’s announcement, pointing to struggles it faced during phase one.

President Darlene Jackson said in a release, “As frontline professionals, nurses know that ongoing cuts and changes have not delivered the efficiencies promised by the WRHA and government, and have made it harder for them to deliver safe patient care. Phase 1 increased workload and overtime, especially at major facilities such as HSC and St. Boniface, where nurses are still working record amounts of mandatory overtime.”

The MNU said wait times have been higher and insufficient staffing and resources have made the situation more challenging.

“Deteriorating working conditions threaten to increase sick time, stress leave and force nurses to consider relocating to other regions or provinces for work,” said Jackson.

“Phase 1 was widely disruptive for nurses throughout the region. It’s time for this government to take a step back, and listen to nurses’ concerns. In the meantime, we will continue to speak out against cuts and changes that jeopardize patient care."

Health, seniors and activing living minister Cameron Friesen said consolidationg these services is about better patient experiences and outcomes.

"The consolidation of services will improve patient care and is in line with recommendations made by experts like Dr. Peachey and Dr. Rush. While the modernization of our health system is still in progress, preliminary results have demonstrated we are moving in the right direction." he said.