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Referendum launched in Windsor to stop health care cuts

Posted: April 25, 2016

(April 25, 2016)

By: Tom Morrison, OurWindsor.ca

Members of the Windsor Health Coalition are asking people from the area to vote in an informal referendum to stop provincial cuts to the health care system.

The referendum is being held across the province in conjunction with the Ontario Health Coalition May 28.

Ken Lewenza Jr., chair of the Windsor coalition, said this about making a “political action” rather than creating something which would bind the Ontario government.

“This is about taking an opportunity to educate the community, to make the community know and feel that there’s actually something to tap into, that they can make a difference,” he said Monday during the local kickoff for the referendum.

The referendum reads, “Ontario’s government must stop the cuts to our community hospitals and restore services, funding and staff to meet our communities’ needs for care,” with the option to select yes or no.

Lewenza said there have been nine consecutive years of “real dollar cuts” to the health care system, meaning any increases to funding hasn’t covered the inflationary pressures health facilities have to deal with.

He said that includes the extra $345 million announced in the 2016 provincial budget, which provides roughly a one per cent increase to the operational budgets of all Ontario hospitals.

“That one per cent doesn’t cover the inflationary pressures, doesn’t cover the growth,” he said. “It doesn’t cover our community’s unique challenges.”

The coalition is also looking for 400 volunteers locally to work at voting booths across the area for the day of the referendum.

Lewenza said the plan is to have these booths in places like corner stores, drug stores, cafes and malls. He said they are also looking into bringing the voting into workplaces.

Windsor Regional Hospital announced in January that due to a funding shortfall it would be cutting 166 full-time positions this year, including 120 registered nurses, 80 of which would be replaced with 80 registered practical nurses.

Sue Sommerdyk, president of the Ontario Nurses Association bargaining unit for Windsor Region, said this referendum is a way to further raise awareness of the effects the provincial funding model is having on hospitals.

“People are afraid to move jobs because they’re afraid that if I move from my part-time job to my full-time job, then I’ll get laid off,” she said or nurses on staff at Windsor Regional. “It’s just not a very good atmosphere.”

She said the first schedule for June 15, when these cuts will occur, has been posted and it has led to “very, very low morale” among the nursing staff.

Mike Lepine, a Vietnam War veteran involved with the coalition, said the government needs to have more compassion when it comes to healthcare.

“Let’s get the message out that we’re tired of you (the province) breaking a system that doesn’t need to be broken,” he said.

Lewenza said while the governing Liberals deserve some criticism, he doesn’t want to make this a partisan issue so that doesn’t get in the way of people rallying behind the campaign.

To get involved, contact Lewenza at 519-819-0830 or ken.lewenzajr@unifor.org.

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