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Thousands vote locally in hospital referendum

Posted: May 28, 2016

(May 28, 2016)

By: Gord Young, The Nugget

A province-wide referendum aimed at stopping service cuts at Ontario hospitals wrapped up Saturday after garnering thousands of votes from local residents.

Mike Bisaillon, an organizer in North Bay, said local voting results will be announced during a news conference Monday, while the province-wide tally will be made public the following day at Queen’s Park.

Bisaillon said the referendum, which saw volunteers set up at various high-traffic locations within the community in recent weeks, not only resulted in thousands of votes, but also served as an opportunity to engage the community.

Volunteers who collected ballots many people stopped to talk about their concerns about hospital funding and services, as well as to share stories about how cuts have impacted their care.

Conducted by the Ontario Health Coalition, the referendum is latest phase of an ongoing campaign aimed at putting an end to cuts and restoring services that have been lost at hospitals.

The health coalition has said hospital funding rates have failed to keep pace with inflation, translating into “real dollar” cuts to global hospital budgets and leading to reductions to staff, services and beds.

In North Bay, the group says more than 300 full-time, front-line and support staff have been cut since 2013 and 60 beds have been closed.

And without additional funding, the coalition has warned more cuts can be expected.

Referendum ballots were cast in more than 20 Ontario communities, with voters asked to respond with a yes and or no to the question of whether or not hospital cuts should be stopped.

The coalition is province-wide network that includes more than 400 organizations and more than 50 local chapters. Members include seniors’ organizations, health care professionals and nurses, doctors who support public medicare, unions – both public and private sector, community and cultural organizations and student groups.

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