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Hospital town hall meeting on job cuts attracts a crowd in Cobourg

Posted: March 17, 2016

(March 17, 2016)

By: Dominik Wisniewski, Northumberland News

Approximately 115 people attended Saturday’s event at Cobourg Collegiate Institute

COBOURG — Standing before more than 100 residents at Cobourg Collegiate Institute’s Hagen Gym, Linda Mackenzie-Nicholas said she was there because she cares and is concerned about health care cuts.

It’s those cuts that prompted Ms. Mackenzie-Nicholas, the co-chairwoman of the Northumberland Chapter of the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC), to help organize the town hall meeting on March 12.

“I have been concerned for a while about our hospital,” she said. “We don’t want any more services going to Peterborough.”

The OHC event follows a series of information meetings held in Cobourg and Port Hope recently, to provide an overview of a multi-year plan for Cobourg’s Northumberland Hill Hospital – which includes job cuts.

The Hospital Improvement Plan (HIP) was approved by the Central East Local Health Integration Network in January, and in part calls for a net reduction of 13.17 full-time equivalent positions in 2016/17.

The OHC has called those job cuts “devastating” to staff and services, affecting the medical and surgical units in addition to laboratory services.

Among the guest speakers at the meeting on Saturday were Peggy Smith, the co-chairwoman of the Northumberland Chapter of the Ontario Health Coalition; Sara Labelle, chairwoman of the Hospital Professionals Division of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU); and Anne Clark, the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) vice-president for Region 2, which includes Northumberland County.

“I don’t have to tell you that we’re living in uncertain times, but I am afraid of what is to come,” said Ms. Smith.

While she pointed to an aging baby boomer population and Northumberland’s high senior population, Ms. Smith said that since the current health care accord expired in 2014 – $36 billion in cuts to health care across Canada were announced, including $14 billion in Ontario.

“If you think it’s bad enough folks, it’s only going to get worse,” she said.

It’s a concern shared by Ms. Labelle, a medical laboratory technologist at Lakeridge Health in Oshawa.

“I have worked in health care for 16 years and there have been massive changes,” she said. “Over the years when (hospital executives) talk about ‘transformation’ of health care – or making the lab ‘more efficient’ – what they means is less bodies to do more work.”

According to Ms. Clark, the ONA has been raising the alarm about hospital under funding for the last four years.

“This year’s Ontario budget provided a very small amount, a third of one per cent… to hospital budgets. So that’s $60 million for 150 hospitals who had funding frozen for four years,” she said. “Hospital CEOs who tell you that registered nurse cuts will not affect patient care are not being truthful. The cuts directly affect our patients.”

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