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‘Unprecedented’ hospital crisis prompts series of town hall meetings

Posted: November 17, 2022

(November 16, 2022)

By: Calvi Leon, Northern News

A health coalition is holding a series of emergency meetings across Southwestern Ontario to urge the provincial government to tackle the hospital crisis.

The Ontario Health Coalition, a network representing more than 400 organizations, will host online town hall meetings across Ontario, including Seaforth, St. Marys, Clinton and Windsor, during the next two weeks.

“We’re not going to get through this winter,” Natalie Mehra, executive director of the coalition, said Tuesday.

“People will die if we don’t address the crisis in our public hospitals,” she said.

“So, we are calling emergency town hall meetings that we’re going to roll into a mass action plan across Ontario to try to force the government to stop ignoring, sidestepping and downplaying this issue, and address the crisis and support the public hospitals.”

The group is pushing back against what it says is the privatization of Ontario’s health-care system and sounding the alarm on the slew of issues plaguing hospitals, from operating at overcapacity to long ER waits and chronic staff shortages.

Hospitals in Southwestern Ontario are no strangers to such problems, Mehra said.“London hospitals have been overwhelmed for years. Windsor as well,” she said. “But we are in an unprecedented emergency now. It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen.”

London Health Sciences Centre issued multiple notices in recent months asking Londoners to avoid unnecessary visits to its emergency rooms that saw wait times of up to 20 hours for non-urgent care last month. The emergency room at Children’s Hospital reported double the typical volume of patients in its emergency room last week, as a surge in seasonal respiratory illnesses among kids continues to strain pediatric hospitals provincewide.

Hospitals in smaller centres such as Seaforth, Clinton, St. Marys and Stratford have been forced to  close their emergency departments temporarily or reduce their emergency room hours repeatedly due to staffing shortages.

Those emergency departments are at “serious risk,” Mehra said. “Without an emergency department, a hospital is not a hospital.”The upcoming town hall meetings will focus on ways to save such vital services, Mehra said. “We have some ideas about what we might propose, but we need to see what people want to do in the communities,” she said.

Anyone is welcome to attend the 13 meetings held via teleconference between Nov. 21 and Dec. 1. Online registration already is filling up, Mehra said.

“They should be sizable meetings, and we should be able to generate something so that everyone in Ontario knows what’s happening and understands what’s at stake,” she said.

The goal is to place enough public pressure on Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government to take urgent action to support hospitals, Mehra said. “The same people who fought for and built our hospitals in the first place are going to be the ones who force the government to have to listen.”

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