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Local OHC co-chair speaks out about NHH restructuring

Posted: February 3, 2016

(February 3, 2016)

By: Valerie MacDonald, Northumberland Today

NORTHUMBERLAND – As Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) supporters rallied at Queen’s Park this week putting hospital cuts front and centre – including those at Northumberland Hills Hospital in 2005 – the new co-chair of the Northumberland OHC chapter has spoken out about the current restructuring and layoffs underway at the hospital in Cobourg.

Promises made by both Ontario Liberal and Conservative governments in the past have left people in West Northumberland with hospital services that have “shrunk,” Linda Mackenzie-Nicholas said in an interview.

“With the closing of the Port Hope hospital, we were supposed to have 39 couple continuing care beds, 69 acute care beds, 18 rehabilitation beds, 11 sub-acute beds for a total of 137 beds,” she said of the government promises made in the 1990s about maintaining hospital beds in the area when the two town hospitals were merged into one.

“What do we have today? Thirty-six med-surg beds and 24…restorative and palliative care beds (with other in-hospital beds totalling 92).. The hospital has been forced to wind down, whether they are able to admit it or not.”

When asked about the Central East LHIN consultant’s report which contains the recommendations the current Northumberland Hills Hospital restructuring and staff layoffs spring and that it is not being released, and how can people understand the process and impact on the local hospital, the local OHC representative. replied: “When information isn’t shared, I always ask, do they want us to understand?”

As a member of this hospital’s catchment area, Mackenzie-Nicholas said she is concerned about “having services and quality of services we can access when we need them” yet she sees the provincial government only interested in “cutting and privatizing.

We aren’t even keeping up to what we had, never mind what new services we actually need,” she said.

Mackenzie-Nicholas also said she doesn’t believe we “can depend on the (local hospital) board to give us all of the accurate information. If they came out in a negative manner, what would happen? (But) I don’t place the blame for the convoluted funding monster on the board’s shoulders…I feel the responsibility for appropriate funding lies on the shoulders of the provincial and federal governments.

“The communities in Port Hope and Cobourg (and area) have done their part in being financially responsible,” she continued. “I think it is time that was recognized.”

Mackenzie-Nicholas is advocating that people “speak up and tell our government what we want.

“Our hospital should be able to meet with the community” to discuss challenges and necessary services and “take the information back to the Central East LHIN and government. Our hospitals are supported through tax revenue and donations. As a community, we should have a much bigger say than the present managed board is able to provide today.”

It is time that government reconfirm its commitment to health care “and raise Ontario’s provincial funding to the same level of funding as most other provinces,” she said.

That was also the essence of the message presented by the OHC’s executive director to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs at Queen’s Park on Feb. 1.

Among the points in Natalie Mehra’s presentation to the committee were the following:

• Ontario hospital’s are in the midst of the longest period of hospital cuts in Ontario’s history (going on nine years) “with no end in sight.”;

“Funding cuts must be stopped immediately….and hospital funding must be restored,” one of the OHC recommendation states;

• since 1990 more than 18,000 hospital beds have been closed so that Ontario has the fewest hospital beds left per capita of any province, and the number keeps dropping;

• compared to 33 countries, Ontario is third last with regards to beds per capita, besting only Mexico and Turkey

• Ontario now has the least hours of nursing care per hospital patient and still more nursing staff cuts are looming; and

• Ontario hospital patient’s receive over 14% less nursing care than another other part of Canada.

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