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Scarborough/Durham mega hospital mergers still missing the money: OPSEU

Oshawa/Ajax/Scarborough – Hospitals in Scarborough and Durham region may have been given the green light to merge, but they still don’t know where they’ll get the money to do it, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union says.

On Wednesday, Ontario Health and Long-Term Care Minister Eric Hoskins issued a “final integration order” that will allow Rouge Valley Health System’s Centenary site to merge with the Scarborough Hospital while its Ajax-Pickering site is absorbed by Lakeridge Health. But the minister declined to pony up the tens of millions of dollars the mergers will cost.

The missing money can only come from cuts to frontline staff that provide hands-on patient care, says Sara Labelle, chair of OPSEU’s Hospital Professionals Division.

“No patient should have to suffer the consequences of this merger by losing services in their community,” she said. “While the Minister has made some firm commitments that put us miles ahead of where we were a few weeks ago, we are disturbed that he has not addressed the elephant in the room: who will foot the bill for these mergers?”

Responding to public outcry at recent rallies and town hall meetings across the region, Minister Hoskins has promised some additional money for local hospitals. The province will restore the mental health unit at the Ajax-Pickering site, protect emergency departments in Bowmanville and Port Perry, and fund some expansion of certain other services.

“It’s time the province coughed up the money to let these hospitals move forward in planning and providing the health care services these growing communities need,” said Labelle. “For example, Lakeridge Health had money put aside for new labs in Oshawa that have been desperately needed for 15-20 years now. All these capital projects have been put on the backburner because of the uncertainty caused by these mergers. It’s time that ends.”

“The Minister is definitely feeling the heat as public pressure continues to mount,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President. “We will continue to hold this government’s feet to the fire and we will remain vigilant in the face of cuts to the vital staff and services that our communities depend on.”

OPSEU members from the region will travel by busloads to Queen’s Park to participate in an Awareness Day on Monday, November 28, bringing their concerns directly to the decision-makers.

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