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Ontario group plans citizen referendum on May 28

Posted: April 26, 2016

(April 26, 2016)

By: Steve Rice, Stratford Beacon Herald

Education is one of the main goals of a citizens group that took to the street Monday to announce an Ontario-wide referendum about “a crisis” in healthcare.

“We’re entering the ninth consecutive year of a freeze in health care funding,” said Haldie Wicke, a nurse and member of the Stratford and Area Concerned Citizens group. “Never in the history of our healthcare has it been restrained that much.

“You can’t even keep up with inflation at that rate,” she added, describing government cuts as a crisis.

Three members of the local group set up a large ballot box and prop ballot on Cambria Street across from the main entrance to Stratford General Hospital to promote a May 28 referendum run by the Ontario Health Coaltion, which represents 400 citizens groups across the province.

“The alarm has been sounded,” said Wicke. “The doctors have sounded it, the nurses have sounded it. It’s time for the public to become educated about what’s happening in their hospitals.

“We can’t change what the government is doing ourselves but we can start a conversation. Our goal is to educate the public.”

The Stratford group formed in 2014 following the loss of 17 beds in the Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance and the move of continuing care beds out of the city to the hospital in Seaforth.

“In this hospital we have overcapacity of our medical unit, so for me to get a bed somebody has to be discharged,” said Wicke.

According to an information sheet handed out by the group Monday, Ontario has the highest readmission rate in the country, owing to patients being discharged too early, they say. The province has fewer nursing care hours per patient than any other and ranks ninth of 10 province in funding for hospitals.

“The government would have you think that these consecutive budget restrictions are necessary,” the group’s statement reads. “The truth is, they are not. Virtually every other province is better than us on most, if not all measures, which shows our government could do better.”

The referendum Sat., May 28 provides citizens with the opportunity to voice their disapproval for the cuts. Voting stations will be located around the city at convenience stores, coffee shops and malls on that date, and the group will be going into workplaces in the coming weeks to conduct advance polling.

The same referendum will be held in cities and towns across the province, and the results will be presented at the Ontario Legislature.

“Just because you’re in a small community doesn’t mean your vote isn’t going to count,” said Wicke.

For more information or volunteer opportunities, contact the Stratford group atstratfordohc@gmail.com.

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