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Ontario Health Coalition to host healthcare protest in the Sault

Posted: November 5, 2019

(October 28, 2019)

By: James Hopkin, Soo Today

The Ontario Health Coalition has launched a new campaign aimed at stopping cuts to public health funding across the province, which includes reductions in public health units and local ambulance services.

The campaign efforts will serve as a lead-up to a rally that’s scheduled to take place at the George Leach Centre Nov. 30, with similar rallies scheduled for Chatham, Toronto and Ottawa over the next four weeks.

Ontario Health Coalition Executive Director Natalie Mehra told reporters during Monday’s campaign launch that the Ford government has made attempts to “window-dress” cuts to public healthcare in an effort to make them look like they’re not happening.

“The cuts are so draconian,” said Mehra. “I mean, we’re talking about the closure of 25 of 35 local public health units, 49 of 59 local ambulance services.”

“They haven’t cancelled any of those. What they’ve done is, they’ve cancelled retroactive cuts. The cuts going forward are still planned. They’ve rolled back very, very slightly the amount of the public health cuts – but they’re not stopped. There’s no evidence to support the public health cuts, there’s no evidence to support the centralization of ambulance services, and even less so in northern Ontario there’s no evidence to support the cuts to hospitals and long-term care.”

The Ontario Health Coalition says the Sault was selected as one of the sites for the rallies for “maximum political impact.”

“The Sault has been particularly troubled by long wait times in the hospital, inadequate numbers of long-term care beds. The cuts are very real here,” said Mehra. “There’s a public health unit here which is very likely to be one of the ones that’s eliminated.”

“In addition, we’re trying to target putting pressure on Conservative MPPs, and there’s a Conservative MPP here, and we needed to do one in the north for sure, because the northern issues are very unique – because already the services have been very centralized across giant regions in the north.”

The Ontario Health Coalition was joined by representatives of the Ontario Autism Coalition, Ontario Nurses Association and the Sault Ste. Marie Family Council Network Monday to announce the campaign launch.

Ontario Nurses Association region 1 vice president Pam Mancuso says the looming cuts to healthcare have nurses fearing for their jobs in light of the province’s plans to cut 25 of 35 public health units across Ontario and merging them into 10 consolidated health units.

“We’re not even sure how these super-structures are going to work – who’s going to be responsible for which area, and what services are they going to provide in those areas, because the Ford government isn’t sitting down and talking with any type of clarity on what this is going to look like,” said Mancuso. “So we’re waiting to hear what those cuts are going to look like before we can even react.”

Mehra told reporters following the campaign launch that the Ontario Health Coalition’s campaign to thwart cuts to public health spending is a non-partisan effort.

“It doesn’t matter who you vote for, nobody supports these cuts to healthcare, there is no evidence to support them – in fact, the evidence is [that] we need more, not less,” she said. “That is supported widely by the people of Ontario.”

“If we can make that visible – if we can make so visible it’s impossible to ignore, like the autism groups did – I believe that government is going to have to act. But we are not going to stop until they actually stop the cuts. They have no mandate for it, the public doesn’t support it.”

More information on the campaign and upcoming rallies can be found at the Ontario Health Coalition website.

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