KITCHENER -- Some nurses at Guelph General Hospital are speaking out against plans to merge its pediatric unit with the special care nursery.

The special care nursery deals with ill infants and the pediatric unit cares for sick children.

Training started for two of about 30 nurses in January.

“It consists of courses and in-class time and it’s a minimum of six to eight weeks,” said Melissa Skinner, chief nursing executive at Guelph General Hospital.

Hospital staff said they plan to take their time. Training the rest of the nurses could take two to three years.

“We will work with each and every nurse and make sure that he or she is very comfortable,” Skinner said.

The union representing the nurses at Guelph General said concern is growing about the integration.

The union said some staff members in those units may leave the hospital because of the merge.

“We have a shortage of nurses right now,” said  Vicki McKenna, the Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) President. “I’m worried that this will only make that worse for Guelph General.”

Nancy Wright worked at the special care nursery for 19 years before retiring early in December.

“It’s frightening until you get a handle on it,” Wright said.

She said she left because the merger made her worried about patient care. Wright claimed it takes a long time to get used to the job.

“In order to get comfortable In the special care nursery. You’re looking at four to five years,” said Wright.

Two of Shannon Savage’s 12 children needed extra attention at the special care nursery.

Ainsleigh had complications after being born five weeks early and her son Zander was born with a collapsing lung.

Savage said the nurses there made her feel comfortable.

“Like you knew that they knew what they were doing. They were the best of the best in that department,” Savage said.

She said she is worried that could change with the units merged.

“It won’t be the same level of care. It wouldn’t be the same,” said Savage.

Some nurses started a petition against the merger.

The hospital said it understands that nurses might be nervous to dive into a new field, but assures supports will be in place to ensure everyone is well trained and comfortable moving forward.