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Retired Sault Steelworkers feel targeted by Group Health Centre cuts

Posted: March 20, 2024

(March 18, 2024) By: Cory Nordstrom, CTV News Northern Ontario.

Among those hit particularly hard by the Sault’s Group Health Centre de-rostering of 10,000 patients are former Steelworkers, who helped create the health centre.

A meeting from those retirees took place Monday, with plenty of discussion about the current state of health care.

It was a nearly full room of raised hands, representing retired Steelworkers who have been de-rostered by the group health centre.

“I was pretty upset, said former GHC patient Barry Armstrong, who was de-rostered after 60 years.

“I’m 85 years old so I may never find a doctor while I’m still here on Earth.”

A quarterly meeting of SOAR (Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees) included a discussion with the local Ontario Health Coalition rep.

Several officials in the room said they believe that the growing trend toward private health care in Ontario, combined with ageism, played a role in 10,000 people losing their family doctor.

“This is the first time it’s ever happened, and I think it’s been done on purpose,” said USW 2251 Local president Mike Da Prat.

“If you send everybody out with the doctor, that means that you can send out senior people with junior people without the appearance that you’re targeting senior people.”

SOAR member Burnie Thorp has similar suspicions.

“If we create a situation where it gets so bad that we say ‘well look, here’s the solution, it’s the only solution, we’re going to bring in private clinics, and we’re going to allow privatization.’ That somehow that works its way in,” Thorp said.

“Am I saying that’s exactly what’s going on? You know, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, sounds like a duck …”

People feel betrayed

Albert Dupuis from the Ontario Health Coalition said people feel betrayed.

“The majority of the consumers of health care are going to be people that are older, for the most part, that’s just a fact of life,” Dupuis said.

“People worked all their lives supporting the existence, and the maintenance of a public health-care system, only to find that when they need it the most that it’s not going to be there for them.”

Leadership with SOAR requested a meeting to discuss the de-rostering with Sault MPP Ross Romano a month ago and is still awaiting a response.

The group is looking to increase its 500 members to become a seniors coalition for the area, with the aim to form a collective voice for older adults they believe politicians are more likely to listen to.

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