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Ontario Health Coalition hosts town-hall-style about health-care cutbacks

Posted: May 4, 2016

(May 4, 2016)

Author: Mehreen Shahid, Orillia Packet & Times

The Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) is hoping for strength in numbers as it fights back against health-care cuts.

Natalie Mehra, executive director of the OHC, spoke to a crowd of about 70 during a town-hall-style meeting Tuesday night at Orillia’s Best Western Mariposa Inn.

The OHC hopes to gather a quarter of a million votes to help get the attention of the politicians. It is posing the following statement and asking people to respond “yes” or “no”: Ontario’s government must stop the cuts to our community hospitals and restore services, funding and staff to meet our communities’ needs for care.

“I felt like people were energetic and wanted to do something meaningful,” Mehra said in an interview following the meeting. “I think they liked the idea that we proposed, so I think it’s going to happen. I’m really, really pleased, because I think we have a way forward here that could actually, in a real way, save the services.”

The meeting comes on the heels of an announcement my Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital (OSMH) it would eliminate 35 jobs and 16 beds in an effort to tackle a $5.9-million deficit.

“We’ve recently has a consulting firm go through and interview members of the hospital and stakeholders,” said Jan Archer, lab technician at Georgian Bay General Hospital in Midland, which has also been the target of service cuts. This exercise, she explained, was done to help the hospital balance its budget.

A number of suggestions, said Archer, came forward from the consultation process: to close the obstetrics unit and send patients to OSMH), to cut days of surgical suites from five to three and take the ICU down to Level 2, which means the department wouldn’t be able to treat a patient with multiple problems.

“It makes me feel really sad,” said Archer. “I went into this 30 years ago to work for the community and I can’t do that now because they’ve taken the community out of it.”

Coun. Mason Ainsworth, who was also at the meeting, said he would like to rally council members in the area to bring “municipal partners to the table to unite and go to the province and say this is unacceptable.”

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