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Cuts and privatization not the way to quality mental health care

Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Services (former Whitby Mental Health) is the latest provincial hospital to make significant cuts to service in order to meet the government’s legislative requirement to balance its budget.

Unlike most general hospitals, Ontario Shores represents an abandonment of the government’s commitment to make mental health services a prioritiy.

“The government appears to be hitting health care across the board,” says Patty Rout, OPSEU 1st Vice-Present. “The billions they have already spent on improving their priority areas may be lost in the panic to reduce the deficit.”

Ontario Shores gave notice to the union that it was eliminating 55 positions in February. This is in addition to cuts to Beacon House and Challenging Directions Enterprises.

OPSEU was unable to previously discuss the details of the cuts until workers were notified of their layoff.

The hospital has permanently closed one of two community-based facilities of Beacon House, a residential  treatment program serving individuals with complex personality problems. Staff at the Oshawa facility have had their temporary layoff made permanent.

Challenging Directions Enterprises is a Whitby-based outpatient workshop that provided work experience to 75-80 clients daily. It has also closed.

Privatizing laundry services will affect 15 jobs at the centre. Part of the function of the present service includes repair of patient clothing. This will not longer take place once these jobs are outsourced.

Numerous health professionals that deliver care will also be cut, including an occupational therapist, vocational instructors, registered nurses, registered practical nurses, therapeutic recreationists, and a psychometrist.   

The hospital also plans to replace 14 personal care aides on the forensic unit with fewer registered staff.

Four motor vehicle operators will have their hours reduced or be eliminated. The hospital has said that no further patient transport service will be performed. It is not clear how patients will get to medical appointments and court appearances in the community.

All hospitals are presently carrying out plans based on a zero per cent budget change for the coming year. The Local Health Integration Network has said that any increase in funding beyond zero per cent will allow hospitals to mitigate aspects of this plan.

Ontario Shores was one of eleven hospitals that recently learned it was getting additional money from the province to apply against its operating budget.