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Town Hall to Tackle Hospital Cuts

Posted: April 6, 2016

(April 6, 2016)

Author: Tara Jeffrey, The Sarnia Journal

Shirley Roebuck says she wants Sarnia-Lambton residents to know what’s really going on at Bluewater Health.

“The hospital is overcrowded and overburdened,” said the woman at the helm of the Sarnia-Lambton Health Coalition, which is set to host a town hall meeting on April 12 at the Sarnia Library Auditorium.

“The nurses who work here are doing a ‘Herculean’ job of trying to provide safe and quality patient care with far less resources and staff.”

Some 66,000 hours of hands-on nursing care were cut at Bluewater Health last year that, according to the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA), along with ‘devastating’ service cuts including the closure of Petrolia’s endoscopy unit.

“We want to bring people out so we can tell them why this is happening,” said Roebuck, a retired nurse. “The government is not funding hospitals adequately, so what we’re seeing provincewide is severe downsizing, loss of jobs, loss of health care services and complete closure of hospitals.”

The meeting is one of many taking place across the province, hosted by the Ontario Health Coalition and other partner groups, said ONA’s first vice-president, Vicki McKenna, who will speak at the event.

“We don’t believe the public really knows, in many cases, what is going on,” said McKenna.

“So the message we are taking to the public is, they should have an interest in this; they are the ones that can and will drive what happens in their communities. And the way they can do that is by speaking to their MPPs and hospital administration about what their expectations are.

“We believe that the decisions that are being made are solely based on money, and not what’s best for the community and patients.”

Last year, some 50 RN positions were cut at Bluewater Health, said McKenna, pointing to reductions in the medicine unit, intensive care unit, palliative care, mental health and surgery.

“The nurses are concerned about what’s happening there, because it’s their community too. They live there, work there and are proud of what they do,” said McKenna.

“But they see things changing around them and not being able to provide the level of care they believe is expected and that they have been trained to do.”

Bluewater Health President and CEO Mike Lapaine said many hospitals are experiencing overcrowding due in part to the number of beds occupied by alternate level of care (ALC) patients — defined as those who no longer need acute services, but are waiting to be discharged to a setting more appropriate for their needs.

“Today, we were sitting with 55 alternate level of care patients,” Lapaine said last week. “All of our funding and incentives are related to looking after acute patients — so it does put a financial strain on hospitals… and because of hospital funding reductions over the last several years, we are actually sitting at a deficit this year at $1.8 million.”

He added that he has the “utmost respect for our front line nurses.”

“Many of the burdens they feel are just that of our system as it stands today — basically the demands of the system almost outstrip the amount of supply we have.”

Many communities have successfully stopped hospital cuts, said McKenna, who is hoping the town hall event will help Sarnia-Lambton residents do the same.

“We have communities that have literally risen up to fight back on hospital cuts,” she said. “This is about informing people and letting them know they have a voice — and if they have concerns, they know where to go and what to do about it.”


WHAT: Town Hall Meeting

WHEN: Tuesday, April 12 at 7 p.m.

WHERE: Sarnia Library Auditorium

DETAILS: For more info, contact Shirley Roebuck at 519-677-4460 or email