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Calling Code Red! Town Hall Meeting on Healthcare

Posted: May 12, 2016

(May 12, 2016)

Author: Island Clippings, St. Joseph’s Islands

LAST FRIDAY NIGHT’S TOWN HALL MEETING brought out several residents who all shared concern and outright anger about the continuous threats to our local hospital as well as the state of Ontario’s health care in general. Ontario is currently in the ninth consecutive year of real-dollar cuts to hospital budgets, the longest stretch in its history. These cuts mean that hospitals across the province, including our own Matthews Memorial Hospital, cannot keep up even with basic inflation, let alone the increased strain of constantly-rising healthcare costs but dwindling funding. Our hospitals have been cut to the point of dangerous overcrowding and understaffing and it’s the patients who are paying the price. The common feeling running through the room was ‘enough is enough!’ The public might not realistically be able to expect ‘the best’ in healthcare funding, but we should be able to expect at least ‘average’ funding. Local resident and former MMH employee Maria Smith acted as moderator for the evening, supported by a panel of Sheila Campbell, Chair of the Matthews Memorial Hospital Association, Jody Wildman, Mayor of St. Joseph Township and Chair of the Central Algoma Rural Healthcare Steering Committee, Sharon Richer, Vice President of CUPE Local 1623 (Sudbury’s Health Sciences North) and Natalie Mehra, Executive Director of the Ontario Health Coalition.

Also taking part were Carol Hughes, MP and Mike Mantha, MPP, both of whom strongly support the fight to get public healthcare back on the rails. The Health Coalition, which for years has been spearheading the fight to safeguard and improve publicly-funded healthcare, is now taking direct action to force all of Ontario’s political parties and bureaucracies to sit up and pay attention to what Ontarians are telling them loud and clear: Stop The Cuts!” Each of the speakers was eloquent in their remarks and it all painted a very gloomy picture of the dismal state of our healthcare, everywhere in Ontario. The downward spiral is very clear, with almost all of Northern Ontario’s hospitals approaching – or already in – a state of crisis. Rural hospitals and health centres across the province – particularly in the North – are being decimated by budget slashing and frontline staff cuts.

“The rates of overcrowding in Ontario hospitals are unheard of in Canada and the developed world – beyond any comparable jurisdiction that I could find!” asserted Ms. Mehra. In speaking about our own local situation, she echoed the remarks of the previous speakers: “This is not the fault of Blind River [District Health Centre]. We need to get the funding formula right and we need those funds to go to front line services!” With the Ontario funding rate being the second-lowest in the country, Ms. Mehra indicated that the provincial government wants to underfund smaller hospitals to starve them out of business and replace them with centralized high-volume, low cost specialty centres that will compete with each other for funding dollars, with many publicly-funded services being turned over to private ‘for profit’ healthcare service providers.

In order to get the attention of the Ontario government, the Health Coalition plans to send a clear message in a language the politicians will understand: by holding a public referendum from now until May 28th, presenting the wishes of hundreds of thousands of taxpayers, all voting to demand a stop to the cuts. The voting is quite simple … you need simply vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. That’s it! Maria and her fellow concerned citizens will be arranging for ballot boxes to be located in various places around the Island, so that everyone can have their say. And, in the words of Mike Mantha, MPP, “Get angry! Pick up your signs, raise your voices and demand proper funding of our healthcare. We’re not asking for more than we need, but we won’t settle for less!”

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