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County residents ready to rally for hospital

Natalie Mehra OHC director

Natalie Mehra, Ontario Health Coaltition director, with flyers for the Save Our Services rally, March 4 at noon, at Belleville General Hospital.

More than 120 citizens travelled through wintry weather and waded through snow and slush to show support for Picton’s hospital at a meeting hosted by the Ontario Health Coalition at Picton United Church Wednesday night.

Coalition director Natalie Mehra had just spoken to more than 100 people in the Quinte West council chambers. At both meetings, she urged citizens to pressure provincial health minister Deb Matthews and premier Kathleen Wynne.

“If you can do just one thing from this meeting, write. Put pressure on the health minister and premier. These are the people who can change the direction of the policy,” said Mehra. “They need to hear from hundreds of thousands of people…The government is not feeling the pressure and has really not heard a lot of bad about these cuts. We know there will be an election coming so if there’s a good time to try to save services, we know this is it,” said Mehra. “It’s just going to get worse. We all have to say ‘no more’ to cuts, and at least, keep what we have now.”

Quinte Health Care’s board of directors approved in principle, revised plans to cut staff and services to meet a projected $10-15 million deficit for 2013-14. Picton’s is to lose four beds this year, three next and discussion of the two obstetrics beds, and edoscopy services, is ongoing.

An audience member’s suggestion to have Picton be QHC’s endoscopy centre because the costs are much lower here, was met with applause.

Mary Clare Egberts, QHC CEO and Susan Rowe, director of communications, attended Picton's meeting Wednesday night.

Mary Clare Egberts, QHC CEO and Susan Rowe, director of communications, attended Picton’s meeting Wednesday night.

Noticing QHC CEO Mary Clare Egberts was in the crowd, a citizen questioned how QHC had not seen the suggestions and proposals from Prince Edward County physicians, and now that they have been provided again, would they be looked at?

“We are still continuing to work on the process,” said Egberts. “We know that, high-level, we still have probably $7 million to find so that’s why we’re still proceeding and we’re still very much looking at other ideas.”

Ideas to fight the cuts came from the audience and included sending bus loads of citizens to Queen’s Park; getting petition signatures from everybody in the County, attending the coalition’s Save Our Services rally Monday, March 4 at noon at BGH and writing the health minister and premier.

Leo Finnegan, who sits on the board of the Prince Edward Family Health Team, and is vice-president of the PECM Hospital Foundation, thanked doctors for attending the meeting, and noted the many hours spent by the County’s 23 physicians under PEFHT president Elizabeth Christie, to formulate money saving solutions for QHC.

“We’ve kept trying to say there’s got to be other ways of reducing costs and saving money other than cutting beds and at the end of the day we’re not listened to, so I’m very disappointed,” Finnegan said. “We have a family health team that is a model that’s been held up in the province for others to look at. With these cuts are the doctors going to stay? Will new ones come? Will the Queen’s University traning programs continue? This is very dangerous ground.”

Mehra warned the time to take action is now as the province is slashing health care funding at an alarming rate and this is just year one of a five-year plan.

“More cuts compromose patient and staff safety,” she said. “Ontario has the fewest hospital beds per person in Canada and among the worst hospital overcrowding of any industrialized nation. We’ve lost 18,500 beds to cuts since 1990.

“Ontario hospitals are funded at the lowest rate of any province in Canada. The current government has set funding rates at less than the rate of inflation. This means that hopsitals are faced with deficits just to maintain existing services. But hospitals are not allowed to run deficits. If they are projecting a deficit, they are required to cut services. If they refuse to comply, hospital board members can be subject to fines and penalties.”

Mehra explained that cutting public non-profit services forces care out of hospitals and is sometimes contracted out to for-profit clinics, or cut and patients go without.

“This is privatization. Private for-profit clinics are not vying for health care contracts to provide better care. Privatization leads to user fees and two-tier health care. It turns over vital hospital services to profit seeking corporations.”

She also noted that while moving some services to the community is a good idea, the Community Care Access Centres and other home care agencies are not able to meet current demand, let alone expand.

“If our health care services are reduced and our health care professionals cannot deliver comprehensive care, the socio-economic impact on this municipality will be damaging,” said councillor Barb Proctor. “These are concerns that have been expressed to the QHC senior management team from the mayor and council.

“As a former health care professional, an informed municipal politician and a grateful healthcare consumer, I can’t support any further reduction in services at Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital,” she said. “I believe it is necessary to go down this road kicking and screaming in order to hold onto what works.”

Chris Cormier, OPSEU executive board member, also made a presentation.

“I represent 90 OPSEU locals in Eastern Ontario and 23,000 members who work in the public service.  OPSEU represents professionals at the Prince Edward County Hospital.  We are concerned because this is year one of five of hospital budgets being funded at way below reasonable means for Ontario,” Cormier said. “What does this mean down the road when Picton is set to lose 50 per cent of its hospital beds in only year one?   …The cuts in Picton are about political choices that undermine our public healthcare system that Canadians value dearly.  We are worried that the services lost will not be replaced and the community will have to pay for a privatized model of care for services… Privatization never delivers quality public services and clearly it’s not an affordable option.”

OHC austerity reportClick here to read the Ontario Health Coalition’s Austerity Index on health care cuts and deficits across the province.  FULL REPORT  or SUMMARY

Email the Health Minister Deb Matthews: Dmatthews.mpp@liberal.ola.org

Email Premier Kathleen Wynne: Kwynne.mpp@liberal.ola.org

As soon as the petition is ready, countylive will post a copy online to print and a list of places where you can sign.

We are also watching for information on plans for a bus trip to Queen’s Park.

Remember to be at Belleville General Hospital at noon, Monday, March 4 for the Save Our Services rally. Click link  for background.

The Ontario Health Coalition is a network of more than 400 grassroots community organizations include more than 50 local health coalitions in communities across the province; local health action committees; health professionals’ organizations; physicians; medical students’ groups; non-profit service providers; health sector unions; women’s groups and other organizations.

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  1. Janice Hickey Scharf says:

    Thanks for the links to the Premier and Minister of Health – I just sent them each an email… Here is what I wrote. Anyone can feel free to use any part of my letter if they don’t want to compoase one themsleves. I used some stuff from your article above. Cheers.
    —-
    To Premier Wynne,

    All across Ontario hospitals are being forced to make drastic cuts loosing beds and services. These cuts are especially painful to the small hospitals that are part of an amalgamation, such as what is happening at Prince Edward County Hospital as part of QHC. The smaller vital rural hospitals are being sacrificed so that the larger ‘mother-ship’ can stay alive. Just because you cut beds, does not mean that you reduce illness or the need for those beds. I wish that ‘logic’ was a reality. It would solve all of the ills of the world. According to your wisdom and insite, all society would have to do is reduce beds in hospitals and therefore we reduce the people we need them. TaDa! No one gets sick!

    It must be embarrassing to you that Ontario hospitals are funded at the lowest rate of any province in Canada. The current government has set funding rates at less than the rate of inflation. This means that hospitals are faced with deficits just to maintain existing services. But hospitals are not allowed to run deficits. If they are projecting a deficit, they are required to cut services. If they refuse to comply, hospital board members can be subject to fines and penalties. We know that the CEOs must comply to what the LHINs tell them to do or else they lose their jobs. The LHINs must do what the Provincial government says, or else their appointments are not renewed – so the buck stops with you!!!

    Privatizing health care has started already in this province with physical therapy. It is not the answer. In fact, not having access to physical therapy increases hospital stays and creates more trips to the doctor. In Canada our healthcare is a legal right. We pay for it in our taxes. If we had the American system, whereby there is no socialized medicine, our taxes would be less so that we would have more money in our pocket to pay for health care. In Ontario we are starting to see the slippery slope by where we not only are taxed for our health care, but have to pay out of pocket as well. What is the governments long term plans and solutions?

    What will it take to change this slashing hospital budgets? Litigation when a loved one does not receive the care because of the government not taking their responsibility of providing health care for their citizens?

    I hope are horrified at this state of affairs! If you are not, then you are not the right person for the job, and believe me when I say that the public will make this a huge election issue.

    Please use your resources, intelligence and imagination to create solutions for healthcare for the citizens of your province as you promised when you accepted the position of Premier, rather than using a red pen to slash budgets.

    Janice Hickey Scharf MRT, RDMS, CRGS, BSc.

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