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Windsor Health Coalition kicks off referendum campaign

Posted: April 25, 2016

(April 25, 2016)

By: Julie Kotsis, Windsor Star

The Windsor Health Coalition launched its referendum campaign Monday aimed at pressuring the Ontario government to stop cuts to health care, including the loss of 169 registered nurses at local hospitals.

Coalition chairman Ken Lewenza Jr. said the group is committed to a provincewide, volunteer-led vote next month — calling on Premier Kathleen Wynne and the government “to listen to regular Ontarians who do not want to see any more hospital cuts.”

Lewenza said nine straight years of health-care cuts in “real funding” have left Ontario near the bottom when it comes to per capita funding for hospitals. He claimed that while the federal government provides six per cent funding to Ontario for health care, all of that money is not being spent on health care.

He said a “strong health accord” is needed.

Ontario Nursing Association bargaining unit president Susan Sommerdyk, who attended the kickoff at the coalition’s new campaign office on Walker Road, said the situation at Windsor Regional Hospital has been “horrendous” for staff and has led to less time for patient care.

Sommerdyk said nursing schedules are posted eight weeks in advance, so changes expected to happen in mid-June are starting to appear. Registered nurses are being replaced by lower-paid registered practical nurses.

“They have holes in the schedules because they’re not sure who’s going into those positions,” she said. “We still don’t know what the staffing ratios are going to be … people are afraid to move jobs because they’re afraid … of getting laid off.”

Sommerdyk said, as people leave, they aren’t being replaced so workloads have increased as well as wait times for patients.

“The morale is very, very low,” she said. “The workload and the stress is just too much.”

The hospital, which has more than 4,000 employees, must cut $20 million — or four per cent — from its $500-million annual budget because of reduced government funding.

“People don’t believe … that we’re in a crisis (but) the staff is running around overworked, (under) a lot of pressure,” Lewenza said.

The Windsor Health Coalition is working in conjunction with the Ontario Health Coalition and an Essex County Health Coalition has just formed. The groups will work to mobilize community support and rally residents to vote in the referendum on May 28.

Volunteers will appear at grocery stores and other high traffic areas to spread the word and Lewenza said they hope to place ballot boxes around the city and in unionized workplaces.

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