Thousands sign Niagara petition calling for restored urgent care hours
Posted: November 8, 2023
(November 7, 2023)
By: Sarah Ferguson, Welland Tribune News
With more than 4,000 signatures on it, Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates thinks a petition calling for restored service to Niagara’s two urgent care centres (UCC) will get the attention of the provincial government.
He intends to make sure of it.
“(The number of signatures) works out to probably one in seven people that live in this community who cared enough (about their health care) to sign the petition. I think that sends a strong message,“ Gates said.
The petition is calling on the province to return 24/7 urgent care services to the Douglas Memorial Hospital Site in Fort Erie and the UCC in Port Colborne.
In June, Niagara Health announced operating hours at the UCCs in Fort Erie and Port Colborne would be cut overnight, and patients would be accepted between the hours of 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. starting July 5.
Gates will present the petition at Queen’s Park in two weeks’ time, and will have the support of his colleagues behind him.
”Other MPPs will also read the petition and sign their name to the petition (before handing them) in to the clerk,“ Gates said, and added Niagara Centre MPP Jeff Burch and St. Catharines MPP Jennie Stevens are expected to lend their support.
Niagara Health Coalition chair Sue Hotte presented Gates with the petition Tuesday morning during a rally held in front of Fort Erie’s UCC on Bertie Street.
Hotte expressed her gratitude to the volunteers, and members of the Niagara Health Coalition, and the advocacy group Fort Erie Healthcare SOS.
”I can’t thank you enough for all that work,“ Hotte told the small crowd that had gathered for the event.
”This is wonderful. You all have worked so hard for the past couple months to get signatures for the petition.“
Heather Kelley, a member of Fort Erie Healthcare SOS, said a majority of the signatures on the petition came from residents living in Fort Erie, Stevensville, Ridgeway, and Crystal Beach.
Gates said there is a health-care crisis across Ontario, not only in Fort Erie, and he also criticized the Ford government for moving toward private hospital services, part of Bill 60, Your Health Act.
”How can (the provincial government) continue to shut down UCCs, and shut down emergency rooms when they’re sitting on $21 billion of surplus money that could go right back into health care that they’re hoarding for the next five years,“ he said.
Gates said health care should remain a public service, and added a private health-care system, similar to the health-care system used in the United States doesn’t work.
The MPP asked if anyone knew what the No. 1 reason for filing bankruptcy in the U.S. is, and then said the answer out loud; the reason most Americans file bankruptcy is due to the price of private health care.
Gates also discussed the importance of having health care nearby, and noted Fort Erie residents see significant weather events that make travelling to other municipalities for care more difficult. He gave the example of last year’s storm on Christmas Day, which left many without power, and unable to leave their homes due to the large amount of accumulated snow.
”We couldn’t even drive down the highway for five days; we couldn’t get out of our homes, and yet they want to shut this hospital down from 10 o’clock at night until 8 a.m. It’s absolutely wrong,“ Gates said. ”It’s a mistake.“