The axe is falling on Nova Scotia's health care system as all nine district authorities and the IWK Health Centre say they are cutting back.

Administrators claim the impact on patients will be minimal but health care advocates are not so sure.

Bernie Larusic is the president of a provincewide federation representing Nova Scotia seniors. Larusic doesn't buy the argument that $7-million worth of cutbacks in local hospitals won't affect the quality of health care, especially when demands on the system continue to grow.

"Cutbacks are not minor when we are talking about the seniors' population," says Larusic. "We are the growing population. Any cutback in the system has an impact on us."

The Cape Breton District Health Authority unveiled its plan to curb spending Thursday, starting at the top.

In total, 53 positions are being eliminated, including vice-presidents, directors and other management and non-union jobs.

Failing to fill other positions may lessen access to services or lengthen wait times, although the authority expects the impact on patients will be minimal.

The provincewide merger of services, from purchasing to laundry, will be a major money saver for all districts.

In the Cape Breton District Health Authority, there will be cutbacks in dietary services. Right now, the daily cost of meals per patient is 60 per cent higher than the provincial average.

"We are not planning not to feed patients," says health authority CEO John Malcom. "The question is ‘will it necessarily be delivered as quickly as it could? Will our choices be somewhat more limited than they have been in the past?'"

In the province's largest district, the Capital Health Authority is chopping $15-million and 90 jobs from its budget. Savings are targeted in several departments or labs and outpatient services. However, officials still maintain there won't be significant changes in patient care.

The overall cutbacks amount to less than a half per cent in hospital budgets, but critics say even that is significant in a province where health costs have doubled in the past decade.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Randy MacDonald