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Health coalition rally planned for Nov. 2

Posted: October 11, 2019

(October 11, 2019)

By:  Trevor Terfloth, Chatham News

Citing grave concerns with cuts and mergers, health-care advocates are teaming up with labour organizations and First Nations to raise awareness on a larger scale.

The Ontario Health Coalition held a media conference outside the Chatham-Kent Civic Centre last Thursday to launch its campaign and announce a rally slated for Saturday, Nov. 2, at the John D. Bradley Convention Centre.

Natalie Mehra, the coalition’s executive director, said “major stadium events” at venues in various cities, including Toronto, Sault Ste. Marie and Ottawa, are also planned.

She said there are worries about the impact of cuts, in particular the amalgamation of Ontario’s 35 public health units into 10 organizations.

“The government needs to hear from people en masse,” Mehra said. “Regardless of political party.”

The group is also concerned about reductions to hospital funding and ambulance services.

Mehra said inflationary costs are adding additional pressures and believes municipalities across the province will end up taking the financial hit for many of the cuts.

“It doesn’t matter what political party people voted for. Nobody voted to cut local public health services,” she said. “Those are the vital health promotion and prevention services in our community.”

Shirley Roebuck, co-chair of the Chatham-Kent Health Coalition, said centralization doesn’t work and won’t help communities.

She said the long distances within different jurisdictions in Southwestern Ontario will pose a significant challenge.

“That’s why we’re doing this. That’s why we’re fighting extremely hard,” Roebuck said.

Also attending the campaign launch were representatives from the Chatham-Kent Labour Council, the Ontario Nurses’ Association, Unifor, the Wallaceburg-Walpole Island First Nation Health Coalition, and Save Our Sydenham.

Karen Bertrand, the nurses’ association vice-president, said critical services will be reduced, adding prevention offered through public health is more effective than treatment.

“Nothing that (the province is) doing is evidence based,” she said.

Linda Reaume, labour council president, described it as”a David and Goliath fight, but we know what happened there.”

Beth-Ann Cook, co-chair for the Wallaceburg-Walpole Island First Nation Health Coalition, said she was also concerned for the next generation.

“I do not want to see our children lose any services,” she said.

A representative for Chatham-Kent–Leamington’s Progressive Conservative MPP, Rick Nicholls, said they were clarifying information with the ministry before they could comment on the health coalition’s campaign.

The Nov. 2 rally starts at 11 a.m.

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