Oxford Health Coalition is running advance polls for a community referendum started by a provincial coalition that wants to see more health care spending in Ontario
Posted: May 12, 2016
(May 12, 2016)
Author: Megan Stacey, Woodstock Sentinel-Review
The Oxford Health Coalition is making the rounds at municipal council meetings, asking for support from Oxford politicians as they fight for increased funding to health care services and hospitals locally and across the province.
The group is a local branch of the Ontario Health Coalition, a provincial group that advocates for improvements to the public health care system.
“The Ontario goal is to send a quarter million votes to Queen’s Park to tell them we do not like the financial cuts to our hospitals and cuts to our services,” said Cathy Mott, an Ingersoll resident and member of the local coalition.
The Oxford Health Coalition is a committee under the umbrella of the Oxford Coalition for Social Justice.
Mott said the organization is concerned about the increased privatization of health care services and funding cuts to hospitals.
“Of the 10 Canadians provinces, Ontario is ninth in terms of (per capita) spending for our hospitals,” she said.
The Canadian Institute for Health Information, an independent non-profit that publishes data on the Canadian health care system, shows that Ontario was indeed the second lowest per capita spender on hospitals in 2013 and 2014. In 2015, CIHI reports predicted that Ontario would be the third lowest spender in terms of overall health expenditures per capita.
“The nurses, the frontline workers, the doctors, are being run off their feet,” Mott said. “We need changes made to protect people.”
The Ministry of Health and Long-term Care said in an e-mailed statement that hospital funding in Ontario has increased by 54 per cent since 2003-2004, jumping from $11.3 billion to $17.4 billion.
The 2016 budget committed an additional $345 million for all publicly funded hospitals in the province.
But Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman said it’s just not enough.
“Locally we’ve seen cancellation of surgeries and so forth, because (the hospital) budget just doesn’t allow them to keep the operating room open,” Hardeman said.
In an annual survey to Oxford residents, Hardeman asked households whether any family members were waiting for health care services.
“A great number of them had been, and are, waiting. Obviously that’s a big concern,” he said.
The Ministry noted that smaller hospitals in particular received an extra boost – $80 million provincially – through the Small and Rural Hospital Transformation Fund. Alexandra Hospital in Ingersoll and Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital both received some of that funding.
Crystal Houze, integrated president and CEO of those hospitals, told the Sentinel-Review in July 2015 that while a one per cent increase to base funding was exciting, hospital costs were rising at a level closer to two or three per cent annually.
“The cost of providing the services is going up,” Hardeman said. “The Minister is suggesting that they should be able to make ends meet and have money left over because he’s increasing (funding)…the truth is that the actual spending on health care has gone up more than that every year for the last great number of years.”
With an aging parent in need of hospital care and other services like cataract care, Mott said she’s seen the impact of health care cuts first hand.
“It’s very personal for me, but I also see the future consequences. It’s going to affect children, grandchildren, generations from now.”
That’s why she spoke to three municipal councils last week – Zorra, South-West Oxford and Woodstock – to ask for support and a place to hold advance polling stations.
“We really appreciate the municipalities giving us more legitimacy by giving us their support,” Mott said.
Several municipal offices will now be home to ballot boxes for this community referendum, including Woodstock City Hall.
The ballot issues a statement: “Ontario’s government must stop the cuts to our community hospitals and restore services, funding and staff to meet our communities’ needs for care.”
Voters have a simple task – answer yes or no. The final day for voting is May 28.
Mott wants to encourage folks in the community to get out and vote for increased health care spending in Ontario.
“Every voice counts, every ballot counts.”
Oxford Health Coalition website: