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Budget ignores northern Ontario health care needs: OPSEU

Last week’s provincial budget did little to address the health care needs of northern Ontario, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) told a news conference today.

“Last week’s budget did nothing to turn the corner on a decade-worth of cuts,” said OPSEU Second Vice-President Sara Labelle, who also chairs the union’s Hospital Professionals Division representing 25,000 workers across the province. “You have a gem of a health care facility here at Health Sciences North (HSN). But this budget has failed HSN.”

HSN is the largest hospital network in northern Ontario. But an HSN report this year said its bed occupancy rate runs at 116 per cent – well above the 85 per cent level recommended by the World Health Organization. Patients at HSN typically find themselves warehoused on stretchers in the emergency ward, in hallways and, in the reported case of one, 84-year old patient earlier this year, in a TV common room with three others.

“This year’s Ontario budget could have done plenty at Health Sciences North to reverse the cuts of recent years. It didn’t,” said Labelle.

“What the government has done instead is to create a crisis inside our hospitals so that they can eventually hand over services to the private sector,” she said, citing physiotherapy, medical radiation technology, CT scans and MRIs.as some of the hospital services that could be auctioned off to private interests lured by the prospects of fat profit margins.

At today’s news conference, OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said the budget’s neglect of the health care needs of northern Ontarians fits a larger pattern of cuts and privatization of public services throughout the province.

“People in northern Ontario work hard, pay taxes and expect public services to be there when they need them,” said Thomas. “But instead of making the people of the north proud of their public services, the Wynne government will go to any length to diminish, cut, privatize and eliminate the public services that generations northerners have come to expect and rely on.”

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For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931, Sara Labelle, 905-914-4037