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Cost of hospital merger set to balloon: OPSEU

Oshawa – In April, Health Minister Eric Hoskins announced that the Ajax/Pickering site of the Rouge Valley Health System would merge with Lakeridge Health Oshawa (formerly Oshawa General Hospital) by November 1, 2016.

On August 19, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care said the cost of merging the two hospitals would be $18.8 million. Savings resulting from the merger are estimated at $300,000 annually.

“In other words, the province will break even by 2079,” explained Sara Labelle, chair of the Hospital Professionals Division with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which represents some 14,000 members in approximately 90 bargaining units in public hospitals across the province.

“But all we have to do is look at the Liberal track record on building hospitals through public‑private partnerships to see what the actual cost will be: two-and-a-half to three times higher than initial estimates. In other words, this merger is going to cost taxpayers from $47 million to $56 million. Then figure out how many centuries it’ll take to recoup that investment.”

Labelle also pointed out that Marc Rochon – known for closing hospitals in the Mike Harris era – is piloting the merger. In terms of who will pay for it, Rochon has said the government is discussing the matter with the Central East Local Health Integration Network.

“How many services are going to be sacrificed on the altar of this merger?” Labelle wondered. “How many staff are going to be out of a job just before Christmas? Rochon says there’ll be ‘some reductions,’ but they won’t be ‘significant.’ Just what is ‘significant’ to him and this government? When one worker is kicked out the amalgamated door, that’s significant to them, it’s significant to their family, it’s significant to me, and it’s significant to OPSEU.”

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas questioned the motives for the merger, noting the timing of the announcement.

“Next week, there’s going to be a byelection in Scarborough-Rouge River – right next door to Ajax‑Pickering,” he said. “The Liberals are desperate to keep this riding. So as usual, they’re doing what’s politically expedient, without concern for the real value to local residents and taxpayers.

“Hospital mergers don’t work – period,” he continued. “They cost money without improving care. OPSEU knows that, because health care workers help lead the union. As a nurse myself, I know what hospital professionals are looking for: the uncompromised health care that can only happen when the workforce has a strong voice in the workplace. That’s why OPSEU is their union of choice.”

For more information: Sara Labelle, 905-914-4037