Hospital Professionals

Cuts to Northumberland Hills Hospital leave residents without access to publicly-funded outpatient rehab services

COBOURG – The Northumberland Hills Hospital is making deep cuts to patient services, leaving the county with fewer beds, no publicly-funded outpatient rehab services, and closure of the diabetes education and outreach program.

It is estimated that more than the equivalent of 45 full-time jobs will be lost at the hospital as it cuts 16 alternate level of care beds, closes its entire 18-bed complex care and interim long term care wing, and ends its outpatient rehab and diabetes programs. About five of these lost full-time equivalent jobs will belong to professionals represented by OPSEU.

“While the McGuinty government has been bailing out struggling hospitals across the province, it appears to be throwing in the towel at Northumberland Hills Hospital,” says Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the 130,000-member Ontario Public Service Employees Union. “This is going to have a major impact on the ability of the hospital to serve the local community.”

Even with the cuts, the hospital will not entirely eliminate its $1.8 million deficit. It plans on balancing in the next fiscal year, 2011/12.

With the closure of outpatient rehab services, it leaves few places to receive publicly-funded care from a physiotherapist or occupational therapist. Most residents will now have to travel to Oshawa or Peterborough for rehab care.

The announcement comes on the same day the province revealed it is going to make hospitals compete on price for the right to perform surgeries and other treatments, similar to competitive bidding in home care. A Liberal spokesperson admitted to the media that the changes may not be welcome by general hospitals or those serving rural communities.

“Our members are shaken by these cuts,” says Kim Zoldy, Chief Steward of OPSEU Local 344, “they are now faced with major decisions about their future in this community.”

The cuts are not the first for the NHH. It was originally designed for 137 beds, but presently has 110 beds in operation. After the changes, it will be reduced to 84 beds.

“The Mayor of Shelburne recently reflected on the fact that cuts each year at his community hospital eventually led to its closure,” says Thomas. “Every small and rural community has got to be thinking the same thing this week.”

Residents will have the opportunity to express their views at an upcoming forum next Wednesday from 3 to 6:30 pm at the Lion’s Club. The Ontario Health Coalition is touring the province seeking input on the future or rural and northern hospital care.

For more information:

Rick Janson at 416-443-8888 ext 8383