Toronto/Durham – More than a hundred patients, workers and concerned residents travelled by bus to Queen’s Park today to deliver a clear message to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne: stop cutting our hospitals!
On Wednesday, Ontario Health and Long-Term Care Minister Eric Hoskins used extraordinary measures to order the forced merger of the Rouge Valley Health System’s Centenary and Ajax-Pickering hospital sites into the Scarborough Hospital and Lakeridge Health. The minister has not offered to pay the tens of millions of dollars the mergers will cost.
For months, OPSEU and its community partners have warned that without the minister’s commitment to foot the bill, the nearly $50 million cost would come from cuts to frontline staff that provide hands-on patient care. These communities are all too familiar with restructuring, as the impact of the previous round is still being felt today. Emergency departments are backlogged due to hospital bed shortages and patients are forced to travel from site to site for care. Few are buying the government’s line that this round will improve care delivery.
“Over the past few months, area residents have shown their opposition to this plan at town hall meetings and rallies,” said Sara Labelle, chair of OPSEU’s Hospital Professionals Division. “This government has refused to listen, so today we are bringing the message right to the Premier’s front door. This merger is ill-advised and dangerous.”
Many communities across Ontario, like Ajax, have fundraised for decades to build their community hospitals, Labelle said. Now, with the stroke of a pen, the minister is forcing through mergers that wipe out local hospital boards and subsequently local control over health planning.
“The minister is railroading through these mergers despite the public outcry,” said Labelle. “It’s been a completely undemocratic process, but as with the privatization of Hydro One, this government has shown it is not interested in listening to the public. Instead, it has pushed endless restructuring in order to force through cuts at all costs, including the health of Ontarians.”
“Across the province we’ve heard rumblings of merger talk,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU. “While we are concerned that Scarborough and Durham are among the first in a new slew of mergers sweeping the province, we’re here to make clear that we will continue to work tirelessly with our community partners to fight the cuts and protect the health of all Ontarians.”
For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931; Sara Labelle, 905-914-4037