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Durham Health Coalition joins the Ontario-wide vote to protest provincial health-care cuts

Posted: May 9, 2016

(May 9, 2016)

Author: Tabitha Reddekop, Metroland Media

OSHAWA — The Durham Health Coalition wants local residents to vote in a May 28 referendum to stop cuts to local public health-care.

The local group joined a province-wide referendum started by the Ontario Health Coalition on April 25, along with 19 other communities, to protest cuts through ballots.

“We are trying to protect the services we deliver to our community that are there for those who need it,” says Sara Labelle, a board member of the Ontario Health Coalition, a provincial volunteer organization that advocates for public health-care.

The DHC, the local chapter, will set up ballot stations during the month of May to allow Durham Region residents 16 years old and up to vote on hospital funding cuts.

The OHC says consistent cuts to health care have led to patients having to travel longer distances for care, along with hospitals being understaffed and overcrowded.

“Patients are lying in stretchers in the hallways of our hospitals because they are too full,” says Natalie Mehra, the executive director for the OHC. “By every reasonable measure our hospitals have been cut too far.”

Granville Anderson, a Durham MPP, says that the Ontario government has increased hospital funding regularly since 2004, with more increases prepared for 2016.

“Our government continues to invest in community hospitals, including those in Durham,” he says. “Far from making cuts, our government has increased funding for hospitals in Ontario from $11.35 billion to $17.3 billion, an increase of 53 per cent.”

Ms. Mehra calls those statistics “manipulative” and “disingenuous.”

“The truth is, according to the government’s own data from the Ministry of Finance, Ontario’s government has given hospitals zero per cent increases for the past four years,” she says. “In the 2016 budget, hospitals operational budgets are receiving a one per cent increase. Inflation is projected to be 1.8 per cent. That means real dollar cuts to hospitals.”

According to statistics from the National Health Expenditures Database in 2015, Ontario hospitals receive on average more than $500 less per person compared to other provinces.

“We are asking the Ontario government to improve our hospitals’ funding just to meet the average of the rest of the provinces,” she says. “It’s not unreasonable.”

The coalition hopes to gather 200,000 votes to persuade the government to increase funding.

“(The ballots) will give us the leverage we need to secure that conversation with the health minister,” says Ms. Labelle, who is also a laboratory technician at Lakeridge Health in Oshawa.

She also notes that the Oshawa hospital has not received significant cuts compared to other Ontario hospitals, but the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences has lost more than 20 beds and almost 50 jobs since 2013.

For the referendum, 50 to 100 ballot boxes will be distributed throughout the Durham Region during the month of May.

To find out more or where you can vote this month, visit the DHC Facebook page or follow the organization on twitter @DurhamHealthC

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