Last week, the Wynne government used extraordinary powers to order the forced merger of the hospitals in Durham and Scarborough. The merger will cost almost $50 million of dollars, taking this money away from patient care. In Durham side of the merger, the Ajax-Pickering Hospital will be taken over by Lakeridge Health and the community will lose all remaining control over the future of their local hospital. The community has fundraised for and built that hospital since 1958. Across the region, services will now be rationalized across a much wider geography, forcing patients to travel from site-to-site-to-site for care. The merger, which is being pushed through by fiat from the Health Minister against the opposition of the community, is really a mega-merger of hospitals that were already merged. The communities affected already lost many services after the first merger. One hundred residents from Bowmanville, Oshawa, Whitby, Port Perry and Ajax travelled to Queen’s Park today to bring their message of opposition directly to Ontario’s Legislature.
100 patients, families and concerned residents travelled in by bus to the Ontario Legislature to bring the message to MPPs.
At noon the group held a press conference outside the main doors of Queen's Park (Main Legislative Building). Speakers included Ajax resident Sharon Clark, who talked of how concerned Ajax-Pickering residents are about saving their local services. Sara Labelle, Executive Board Member and Chair of the Hospital Professionals Division of OPSEU warned about service cuts resulting from taking $50 million away from money for actual care and services. Andy Summers from the Ontario Nurses Association reported that Ontario already has the fewest nurses per patient in the country and cannot take anymore cuts. Louis Rodrigues, representing the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, part of CUPE, expressed his concern that Ontario has already cut more hospital beds than any country with a developed economy -- none have fewer hospital beds per patient. He said that the mergers cost more and lead to service cuts. Family members of patients took the microphone and talked about current bed shortages and staff shortages in the Durham hospitals where their loved ones are receiving care -- worried that more cuts will make things worse. Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition expressed outrage at the high-handed, undemocratic process that has been used in an attempt to push through this mega-merger that is not in the public interest.
Natalie went on to warn that hospital restructuring "on steroids" is coming to Ontario. Massive hospital consolidations are being planned with no real public input, the like of which this country has not seen. In Hamilton the plan is to close two large hospitals, in Niagara - the plan is to close five entire hospitals and replace them with one, in Windsor - the plan is to gut the existing hospitals and centralize remaining services to one site, at Humber River Regional - they just closed 3 hospitals to replace with one. This is all being pushed through with no public mandate, no proper legislative debate, no democracy at all. The public already knows all about hospital mergers -- how they have destroyed local services while executive salaries have skyrocketed -- and they are not buying the PR lines being pushed by hospital executives and the government.
Participants met with the Health Minister's staff, Opposition Party Health Critics, Durham and Scarborough area MPPs and asked for their help to secure the funding to offset the $50 million in merger costs and to stop any service cuts in the local hospitals.
Photos can be found on the Ontario Health Coalition facebook page.
For additional information, please visit: www.ontariohealthcoalition.ca