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SAH head applauds coalition efforts to see health-care dollars boosted, but says Ontario’s economy must be considered

Posted: May 18, 2016

(May 18, 2016)

By: Jeffrey Ougler, Sault Star

SAULT STE. MARIE – While Sault Area Hospital president and chief executive officer Ron Gagnon may agree with Ontario Health Coalition contentions hospital coffers could use more cash, he argues the current state of Ontario’s economy must be considered when gauging health-care financing.

 

“Funding to hospitals has not kept pace with inflation over the last number of years,” Gagnon told The Sault Star in an interview following Monday evening’s SAH board of directors meeting. “And I think the other side of that equation is we also have to be realistic and look at the economy in which we live and we, as taxpayers, are willing to pay.”

In February, the Ontario Liberals posted the province’s ninth straight deficit. With $298 billion in debt piled up, Ontario now spends more on interest than on colleges and universities

“I think we need to look at it as a whole,” Gagnon said.

The province did end a four-year hospital base funding freeze in its latest budget, pledging to spend $60 million on hospital budgets, along with $75 million for palliative care and $130 million for cancer care.

The Ontario Health Coalition — and Sault and Area Health Coalition — are not impressed.

Late last month, the Ontario Health Coalition launched an Ontario-wide, unofficial referendum to raise awareness about what it contends is a system in critical condition. The unofficial referendum asks Ontarians if they’re for or against the idea: “Ontario’s government must stop the cuts to our community hospitals and restore services, funding and staff to meet our communities’ needs for care.”

Ballot boxes will be distributed to businesses, workplaces and community centres across the province before May 28, when votes will be tallied and presented to Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Last Saturday, an advance poll saw some 210 ballots cast over six hours at Mill Market. More advance polls run May 24-27. Local officials expect to finalize locations this week for the five days of voting.

A recent town hall meeting hosted by Sault and Area Health Coalition saw a number of matters, from fears of further privatization to first-hand hospital horror stories, expressed by a number of speakers, including Natalie Mehra, Ontario Health Coalition executive director.

Gagnon said he applauds the group’s efforts to make its voice heard.

“I think the coalition has a message that they want to make sure gets heard,” he added. “And I fully respect them for that.”

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