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MPP Rinaldi lobbies for services

Posted: February 8, 2016

(February 8, 2016)

By: Valerie MacDonald, Northumberland Today

NORTHUMBERLAND – After CUPE Local 2628 issued a media release calling on Northumberland-Quinte West’s MPP to lobby against hospital cuts for the good of the local community and Hwy. 401 users, Lou Rinaldi responded by saying he has been doing this already for services ranging from health to education.

“My goal is always to make sure the community gets an equal share and adequate level of services…on all issues,” Rinaldi told Northumberland Today.

Rinaldi said he trusts the Northumberland Hills Hospital (NHH) board and its executive to “make sure we have the right level of services” and that he relies on their expertise.

“I respect their decisions,” he said of the restructuring plan that is being rolled out at NHH.

The push by CUPE Local 2628 and its president Alice Cunnington to get Rinaldi more involved in lobbying on behalf of the local hospital based in Cobourg is because of the restructuring plan which includes layoffs affecting all three unions in the hospital, merging patient units, cutting back on some in-hospital support services and outsourcing others, now and into future years.

The plan is address ongoing deficits based on the existing levels of government funding, and according to a recent hospital newsletter, maintain existing services.

The Central East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) – the funding body created by the provincial government to oversee how health care dollars are spent in this area as the Ontario Government transforms health care services including hospitals) – has committed one-time funding to deal with this year’s NHH deficit. It is also offered money for “restructuring” or reducing staff at the local hospital.

The current restructuring plan at NHH comes after two recent external reviews, downsizing of 26 beds and staff about five years ago, and an agreement through the hospital restructuring plan which was required by the LHIN of the hospital board. The plan is to keep existing services and keep the existing 92 beds open in the hospital, a hospital built over a decade ago to be a 137-bed facility because this area has a growing elderly population.

CUPE’s call for political assistance from the local riding MPP also comes as the local hospital board is set to hold community meetings to explain the upcoming changes at NHH.

The hospital’s restructuring plan, approved last month by the Central East LHIN, was announced in a lengthy media release and on the hospital’s website (www.nhh.ca). The plan is also referenced in its Feb. 4 newsletter, and responds to concerns raised by hospital internist Dr. David Moorsom in this newspaper about its restructuring, and merging of the palliative care and restorative care units in particular.

In part, the hospital newsletter states: “there is no reduction in palliative care beds planned at NHH, nor is there any plan to reduce the quality of the service our community has come to know and count on today” although there will be fewer nurses caring for more patients in the merged unit, according to a previous interview with hospital CEO Linda Davis.

The upcoming public meetings being hosted by the hospital (Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. at the library in Port Hope and 2 p.m. Feb. 18 at the library in Cobourg) will be the first time that community members will have an opportunity to ask questions about the hospital’s restructuring plan.

The hospital CUPE local (which represents RPNs and others) wants Rinaldi to “be vocal before the (provincial government) budget is released.”

The budget is expected next month.

Cunnington also states the union believes the MPP “has an obligation to ensure that Ontarians from outside our community, driving our stretch of the 401 have access to a well-staffed hospital ready to provide all manner of care in a medical emergency. Patients can’t be admitted where there is no bed available or staff to care for them.”

Rinaldi says the government is transforming health care across the province and isn’t cutting funding because this year the amount is going up 1.5%, and has been going up since 2003.

“Is it enough? he asked. “Maybe not,” admitted the MPP.

Ontario Health Coalition executive director Natalie Mehra, meantime, has said that the governments is cutting funding to hospitals because the funding doesn’t keep pace with inflation, salary increases (most done through arbitration settlements) and the annual increase in the cost of support services and supplies. The result is a cut in funding, she and other unions maintain.

Rinaldi said the hospital isn’t the only health body being affected by his government’s transformation of Ontario’s health care system under the LHINs. The Community Care Access Centres (medical and other assistance given to seniors in their homes and facilities) are being eliminated and day-to-day operations will come directly under the LHIN, he said.

In addition, the local health unit is expected to come under the LHIN umbrella.

“Re-jigging happens in every sector,” Rinaldi said.

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