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New hospital beds ‘a start’ in easing crisis: OPSEU President

Kingston – The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) is applauding Health Minister Eric Hoskins’ recent announcement of 1200 new hospital beds across Ontario. OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas expressed concern that the province’s plan doesn’t go far enough to undo years of deep cuts, but he called the new beds “a start” that will help ease ongoing bed shortages.

“Our public hospitals have been traumatized by a decade of cuts, and our communities have suffered the consequences,” said Thomas, whose home town of Kingston will receive 57 beds. “As a lifelong resident of Kingston and President of OPSEU, I’ve seen firsthand the impact of austerity on our health care system. It’s unacceptable that Kingston’s community hospitals are consistently running at more than 100 per cent capacity, like so many others, and it’s about time something was done.”

OPSEU, which represents 50,000 health care workers across the province – including more than 30,000 in hospitals – has remained a steadfast and vocal advocate for improved hospital funding.

“We’re just now emerging from the longest period of sustained hospital cuts in Ontario’s history,” said Thomas. “As a consequence, Ontario now has fewer hospital beds per person than any other province.

“We’ve brought these concerns to Queen’s Park, and here in Kingston we’ve sat down with local MPP Sophie Kiwala as well,” said Thomas. “After years of pressure – and I’m very proud that OPSEU has been a significant part of that pressure – it’s no surprise that the government is finally starting to take action. It’s taken them too long, but it’s a start.”

In his announcement, Minister Hoskins also stated that there will be additional transitional care spaces created outside of hospital.

“While we’re pleased to welcome new beds, we must demand that all new capacity in health care remain within the public system and that all new beds be created in our public hospitals,” said Thomas. “When we talk about beds, we mean public beds, and we mean staffed beds. Adding new beds means little without the entire team of health professionals, RPNs, and office, clerical, and facilities staff that keep the hospital running smoothly. We cannot ask our already-overstretched hospital staff to take on more work, so investments in staffing are crucial. At OPSEU, that’s what we’ll keep fighting for.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931