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Every vote counts as Ontario Health Coalition looks to put pressure on province

Posted: May 22, 2016

(May 22, 2016)

By: Patrick Bales, The Orillia Packet & Times

Orillians had a chance to voice their thoughts on cuts to the Ontario health-care system Saturday at the ODAS Park Farmers’ Market.

Volunteers from the Ontario Health Coalition had their makeshift polling station open, collecting signatures and votes, hoping to gather enough momentum to change the direction of health care spending in the province.

Orillia is one of 20 communities being targeted by the coalition. Volunteers will be set up at various locations throughout the week in the city soliciting further support.

“This is why we’re here today: to get as many people as possible who disagree with the government’s doing with our health care dollars,” said Sylvia Cole, one of the volunteers out Saturday morning.

The coalition is tired of having the patient be the last person considered when it comes to how health care funding is doled out, particularly patients in rural hospitals, such as Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial or Georgian Bay General.

Without patients, you wouldn’t need hospitals, Cole quipped. Yet, time and time again, she and the like-minded members of the coalition have seen those patients pushed aside. Most recently, in this area, those at the end of their lives and those just entering the world are suffering the most.

“This area has a great, large population of senior citizens and as they age, they require different services than some of the hospitals in the Toronto area or the larger hospitals,” Cole said. “We need to care to help these people get through what is wrong with them, or to get care in their home or even in a nursing home, and that’s not happening.”

The cuts to Orillia’s geriatric programming is mirrored by feared cuts to Midland’s obstetrics department.

“What’s going to happen to people who spend a half-an-hour getting across from Christian Island to the Midland hospital who have to spend another three-quarters-of-an-hour to have a baby?” Cole asked. “It’s not going to happen. They’re going to be delivering in the middle of nowhere on Highway 12.”

The coalition has set up a polling station at each of its volunteer run booths, where concerned citizens can both sign a petition voicing their opposition to the current way the provincial health care system is being run and vote in what the group is calling a referendum.

On the ballot is a simple statement, for which voters are asked to mark an X beside yes or no: “Ontario’s government must stop cuts to our community hospitals and restore services, funding and staff to meet our communities’ needs for care.”

A number of people took the time to vote Saturday morning, hoping to see that statement come to fruition.

“Especially with more people becoming older, there’s more need for health care,” said Sandy Wadden.

“We draw from a large outlying area,” added Karen Henry. “We have such a large demographic (with) young families moving into the area (and) are a huge draw for retiring people as well. So, of course, health care needs tend to escalate.”

The coalition is advertising May 28 as a province-wide referendum day, in which it hopes to have a multitude of volunteers conducting votes in support of community hospitals.

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