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‘It’s been nine years in a row of heath cuts and it has to stop’

Posted: May 12, 2016

(May 12, 2016)

Author: Gord Young, The Nugget

Voting is underway in North Bay as part of a province-wide referendum aimed at stopping service cuts at Ontario hospitals.

A couple of advanced polling stations have been set up and Ontario Health Coalition volunteers will be fanning out to various high-traffic locations within the community to collect ballots until voting closes May 28.

“We’re going to the community,” said Mike Bisaillon, a local organizer, noting volunteers will be rounding up votes outside of Shoppers Drug Mart and No Frills on Lakeshore Drive today.

Bisaillon said people who want to vote can also go to the local Ontario Public Service Employees Union office at 573 Fraser St., as well as Rapport Credit Union Ltd.  at 945 Stockdale Rd.

“We’re sending a message to our government – it’s been nine years in a row of heath cuts and it has to stop,” he said, referring to hospital funding rates that have failed to keep pace with inflation.

The health coalition says inadequate funding translates into “real dollar” cuts to global hospital budgets, resulting in reductions to staff, services and beds.

In North Bay, the group says more than 300 full-time, front-line and support staff have been cut since 2013 and 60 beds have been closed.

Without additional funding, Bisaillon warned more cuts can be expected.

“At some point, and I think we’re there now, we’re going to reach a crisis mode,” he said,  suggesting it’s a situation that’s become the “new normal.”

The referendum is latest phase of an ongoing campaign by the health coalition aimed at putting an end to cuts and restoring services that have been lost at hospitals

“We’re in every major city where we’re trying to keep hospitals viable,” said Bisaillon, noting similar voting efforts are underway in more than 20 Ontario communities.

Ballots ask voters to respond with a yes and or no to the question of whether or not hospital cuts should be stopped. The result will be released the public after voting closes May 28.

Bisaillon said the response so far has been overwhelmingly positive.

The coalition is province-wide network that includes more than 400 organizations and more than 50 local chapters. Members include seniors’ organizations, health care professionals and nurses, doctors who support public medicare, unions – both public and private sector, community and cultural organizations and student groups.

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