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Coalition hopes ‘referendum’ persuades province to stop cuts to health care

Posted: May 18, 2016

(May 18, 2016)

By: Mehreen Shahid, Orillia Packet & Times

A group that is taking its “grassroots referendum” movement across the province to protest health-care cuts is inviting local residents to give their two cents’ worth.

The Ontario Health Coalition (OHC), a volunteer-based organization, will set up stations in 20 communities, including Orillia, this month. The goal is to collect enough votes to persuade politicians to pay attention and take action on cuts to health-care services.

“We’re trying to put pressure on the government to give more funding to hospitals,” said Lynne Hancock, co-chair of OHC in Orillia. “Ontario is not doing so well in funding its hospitals; it is ninth out of the 10 provinces.”

The results of the referendum will be taken to Queen’s Park by the end of this month, before legislature breaks for summer, said Patt Carter, an OHC Orillia volunteer.

Richard Johnston, also a volunteer and a retired doctor, said the continued funding cuts are the thin edge of the wedge, moving toward a two-tiered system: those who have the money to get better service and the have-nots.

“Good health care is a hallmark of this country,” said Johnston. “A lot of us see essential services being divested to private firms and taken away from hospitals.”

Last month, Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital (OSMH) announced the closure of its 16-bed complex continuing care program and the elimination of 35 full-time-equivalent jobs, owing to a budgetary deficit of $5.9 million.

“And it’s not just for Orillia,” said Carter. “It’s across the board.”

It’s also not just seniors who will be impacted, she said, adding younger people will also suffer thanks to increased wait times in emergency units and delays in diagnoses.

That’s why the community and decision makers need to take notice, said Johnston.

“If you sit back and be disconnected and be dispassionate, in 15 years, there will be nothing,” he said.

“I think if the community knows about it, they’ll come out and say stop the health-care cuts.”

Local referendum stations

• May 21 — Orillia Fairgrounds Farmers’ Market, 8 a.m. to noon

• May 24, 25 and 26 — Orillia Foodland, 6 to 8 p.m.

• May 28 — St. Luke’s Church, Prices Corner, 8 a.m. to noon

• May 28 — St. Athanasius’ Anglican Church, Orillia, 10 a.m. to noon

The OHC also hopes to have a polling station set up on Mississaga Street during the Into the Green and Blues Street Festival May 27 and 28.

For more information, call Hancock at 705-259-2750 or Natalie Mehra at 416-441-2502.

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