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Rally aims to rouse public wrath over health cuts

Posted: November 30, 2019

(November 29, 2019)

By: Jeff Ougler, Timmins Daily Press

Keep Ontario health care healthy by cancelling current and proposed cuts. That’s the message architects of a Saturday rally here hope to deliver to the province.

Co-ordinated by the Sault Ste. Marie Health Coalition, Ontario Health Coalition and a local committee comprised of many organizations and community groups, the event will feature speeches and visual presentations geared to hammer home what organizers argue is the potential negative impact of cuts and restructuring on local access to care and services.

“It’s been a positive vibe from the community,” James Kemp, of Sault Ste. Marie Health Coalition, told The Sault Star Thursday.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people and handed out a lot of flyers. Our big thing was to get the word out to the communities to what was happening and get the community to show their disapproval.”

Saturday’s rally is noon to approximately 1:30 p.m. at Algoma University’s George Leach Centre.

Organizers point to proposed sweeping changes to health care under the Ford government, which include plans to consolidate 14 local health integration networks, Cancer Care Ontario, eHealth Ontario and several other agencies, into a new organization called Ontario Health.

Planned closures of 25 of 35 public health units and 49 of 59 local ambulance services are also on the radar.

The coalition also hopes to put enough political pressure on the government to stop plans to cut public health and long-term-care funding, as well as halt offloading of costs to municipalities. Saturday’s rally is one of four such events, planned by OHC.

The Ontario government has apparently backed off its plan to centralize health units and emergency medical services, saying it will first consult municipalities and local health officials on reforming the system. In a province-wide teleconference broadcast to local health units this week, provincial health officials repeatedly used the word “reset” to describe the government’s new attitude to reforms.

“They’ve decided to consult instead of just bully their way through, which is something we’ve been hoping for,” Kemp said. “That’s a step in the right direction.”

There will also be music and refreshments at Saturday’s event.

OHC also contends the province has set overall health funding at less than the rate of inflation and population growth, let alone aging, and set public hospital funding at less than the rate of inflation. Funding for long-term care, daily care, is set at one per cent, which is about half the rate of inflation and equals “real dollar” cuts, OHC says.

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