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Kawartha Health Coalition urges residents to share their voice

Posted: April 26, 2016

(April 26, 2016)

By: Catherine Whitnall, Kawartha Lakes This Week

Ontario-wide referendum vote on provincial funding and restoration of community hospital services set for May 28

About two dozen people turned out to join City of Kawartha Lakes Health Coalition Chairperson Marlene Beaman-McQuay and Charlene Avon, of the Ontario Health Coalition, kick off the local awareness campaign regarding a May 28 referendum vote meant to pressure the Province to end cuts to hospital services and increase healthcare funding.

LINDSAY – Area residents frustrated with cuts to services and years of inadequate health care funding can have their voices heard by making a mark in an upcoming referendum vote.

Spearheaded by the Ontario Health Coalition, and locally supported by the City of Kawartha Lakes Health Coalition, the province-wide vote takes place on Saturday, May 28 with the results delivered to Queen’s Park.

Ontario Health Coalition’s Charlene Avon was joined by local coalition Chairperson Marlene Beaman-McQuay in kicking off the local awareness campaign in front of Ross Memorial Hospital where five years of frozen provincial funding has already forced administrators to find ways to cover a $3 million budget shortfall this year.

“It’s all about securing adequate funding, ensuring hospitals like the Ross Memorial are full service, public and accessible,” said Ms Avon, noting the latter is especially key locally as cuts to services can be “devastating for rural residents” for whom transportation is a barrier. “We believe that there are thousands and thousands of people who have the same concerns as we do around the future of health care. This is nothing against hospitals. It’s a funding issue.”

The provincial government has cut community hospitals’ real-dollar global budgets for eight consecutive years – the longest period of cuts in history – resulting in Ontario ranking second last in Canada for public hospital funding. This has led to the loss of hospital beds, emergency departments, birthing and surgical units, palliative care, and hundreds of nursing jobs.

“We’re hoping that the petitions that we’ve already been circulating and the province-wide vote will show the Premier [Kathleen Wynne] that Ontario has said enough. And we hope she listens, and acts,” said Ms Beaman-McQuay.

Locally, Ms Beaman-McQuay has heard many people voice concerns over the future of the Ross Memorial Hospital in light of such recent actions as transferring pathology and microbiology laboratory services to the Peterborough Regional Health Centre – where a $2 million upgrade to modernize and automate the hospital’s lab was done in 2015 and the vacancy that remains following pathologist Dr. Hudson Giang retirement.

“We’re a lot better off than other places; for now. But with Minden possibly on the chopping block . . . this [Ross Memorial] is a big hospital and it needs to be brought back to the full service levels it had years ago,” said Ms Beaman-McQuay.

Maggie Jewell, a nurse at Ross Memorial for 33 years and President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1909, has seen first hand the impact of inadequate provincial funding at the Lindsay hospital.

“We want public health care. We want full service hospitals. We want things back to the way it was. The Ross Memorial is a great hospital. It’s proven that through accreditation. But it needs the dollars to continue to do so,” said Ms Jewell, noting in the summer months demands on hospital services have the potential to virtually triple but government support doesn’t.

In order to provide as many voting opportunities as possible, 26 ballot stations will be set up across the City. There will also be advance polls, including April 30 and May 1 during the Antique Automotive Flea Market at the Lindsay Exhibition grounds, at Joy Vista Estates and Lindsay senior apartment buildings. Efforts are underway to open an office as well where people can sign the petition, vote and obtain more information on the Coalition’s efforts.

For more information call 705-761-4408, 705-324-6028 or 705-328-5932.

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