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Wynne government’s costly merger plan threatens area hospitals

Oshawa/Ajax/Scarborough – At news conferences this morning, representatives of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union expressed deep concern about “ill-advised and expensive” hospital mergers that will undermine the health of nearly a million people living along the 401 corridor.

The merger plans of the Central East Local Health Integration Network will affect Lakeridge Health, the Rouge Valley Health System (RVHS) and the Scarborough Hospital.

“These two mega mergers are set to cost tens of millions of dollars,” said Sara Labelle, chair of the Hospital Professionals Division of OPSEU. “Given that the province has not agreed to cover these costs, there is only one place this money can come from: massive cuts to the front-line staff that provide hands-on patient care. That’s bad for everyone who depends on our public hospitals.”

Recent estimates have put the cost of the merger of RVHS’ Centenary site and the Scarborough Hospital at $25.1 million. The cost of merging RVHS’ Ajax and Pickering campus and Lakeridge Health could cost anywhere between $13 million and $18.8. The alleged “savings” from this merger will take more than 60 years to materialize, Labelle said.

In a province afflicted for years by devastating hospital cuts as a result of hospital budgets that have not even kept pace with inflation, we are now seeing tens of millions of dollars we don’t have being funneled into a merger we don’t need.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas was critical of the Central East Local Health Integration Network for its failure to consult with the public about the planned mergers.

“What’s happening with these mergers is exactly what the former provincial Ombudsman criticized in his scathing report, ‘The LHIN Spin,’” Thomas said. The public has a right to raise questions and get answers, but that’s not happening.”

After the Central East LHIN held a board meeting last week with less than three hours of public notice, the union has filed a formal complaint with the Premier, the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, and the provincial Ombudsman regarding the process. The letter was released publicly this morning.

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas continues to encourage area residents to get involved in the growing fight to save their hospitals and the services they provide.

“This merger can be stopped, but there is only one surefire way to do it,” he said. “And that’s for citizens to make their voices heard.”

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