Andrea Horwath held a community roundtable in Sarnia Friday
Posted: May 6, 2016
(May 6, 2016)
Author: Tyler Kula, Sarnia Observer
Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath was in Sarnia Friday, hammering home her party’s call for new provincial minimums for hospital funding.
Just two days earlier in Toronto she’d called for stable, predictable annual budget increases tied to inflation and population growth.
“At this point our point is stop eroding the health-care system, put some bare minimums in place, and then we can start to talk about rebuilding,” she said.
Her comments came after a 45-minute meeting with local healthcare workers, union officials and politicians, talking about their concerns with the healthcare system and what should be done.
People are worried about the erosion of care, she said, after four years of frozen hospital funding and a funding formula that, in Sarnia-Lambton, has led to millions in lost revenue and about 80 net job losses at Bluewater Health.
A one-per-cent funding increase announced this year won’t be enough to reverse the damage done, Horwath said.
During Horwath’s roundtable discussion with community members, at Sarnia’s Strangway Centre, the provincial local health integration network system was criticized and called a shield for the government when it comes to assigning blame for healthcare cuts, the provincial party leader said.
Community care access centres were also a target, she said, as was the practice of moving services out of hospital and into community clinics.
That’s a move toward privatization, she said.
“People still access the service through the public system in terms of the cost, but the actual money isn’t going to a public system that has public oversight,” she said. “The money from the OHIP system is then going into the hands of private operators and that is privatization of our health-care system, which is not acceptable.”
Sarnia is one of several communities Horwath is visiting on a planned tour after calling for mandatory minimum hospital funding Wednesday.
“When we make these kinds of policy announcements, we tend to make sure that people hear them all across the province,” she said.
Sarnia-Lambton Health Coalition president Shirley Roebuck was beside Horwath Wednesday in Toronto, telling about her own experiences as a registered nurse and some of the concerns she’s heard from folks in the Sarnia-Lambton area.
“It’s very gratifying that Ms. Horwath made time to come down to Sarnia-Lambton,” Roebuck said Friday. “This proves to me that the Queen’s Park event wasn’t just candy or candy floss, if you will, but is a true campaign that the NDP are going to start to save public health care.”
Patients and health-care workers are suffering, she said.
“Our healthcare system is terribly broken and if it doesn’t need to be revised, it needs to be probably relaunched.”
The Ontario Health Coalition is planning a voluntary referendum May 28, asking people to answer whether or not they support funding cuts to hospitals, Roebuck said.
Hopes are to use its results to influence reform.
Location details are expected later this month, Roebuck said.
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