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SOS Day of Action rally set for March 4 at BGH

PECMH SOSUnprecedented cuts to, and privatization of, hospital and health care services have prompted the 400-member Ontario Health Coalition of  health organizations to announce an SOS – Save Our Services – Day of Action for Monday, March 4 with events across Ontario – including a rally at noon at Belleville General Hospital.

“Thousands of surgeries are being cut from our local non-profit hospitals to be privatized to for-profit corporations, or they are simply cut,” Natalie Mehra, director of the Ontario Health Coalition. “Hundreds of health professionals, nurses and hospital support staff are being cut along with the services they provide.”

In smaller communities, the coalition says, the cuts range from 10 per cent to almost 50 per cent of existing hospital beds slated to be closed while in larger cities hospitals are reporting deficits of $20 million to $40 million. Since hospitals are not allowed to run deficits, they are forced to cut needed services to eliminate these deficits.

The coalition reports the Ontario government is curtailing health spending by more than $3 billion, most of which will be shouldered by hospitals and OHIP.

The coalition  takes issue with Health Minister Deb Matthews’ claim that services are being “transformed” or transferred to home care. She told the Toronto Star “It is OK” to close beds in her plan to reform the system and her office insists “we are not cutting funding by $3 billion, in fact we’re increasing it by more than $1 billion this year alone.”

“This is simply untrue,” says the coalition. “In many cases, services being cut simply do not exist in home or community care. In other cases, services are being demonstrably privatized to for profit corporations, despite repeated government promises to the contrary.”

The coalition released a new report listing hospital deficits and service cuts across the province and a list of upcoming March 4 Day of Action events. Ontario already funds its hospitals at the lowest rate per person
of any province in Canada. The report and upcoming events are available at www.ontariohealthcoalition.ca

At a press conference at Queen’s Park last week, Vicki McKenna, first vice-president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, and Quinte West Councillor Sally Freeman told  the news conference that Quinte Healthcare Corporation cuts to Picton, Trenton, Bancroft and Belleville hospitals are resulting in plans to close maternity, privatize outpatient physiotherapy, cut almost half the hospital beds in Picton and more than one in every six hospital beds at Trenton.

“The proposed cuts by the Quinte Health Care Corporation represent the further erosion of the level of health care in the Quinte area,” Freeman said. “We are demanding a moratorium be placed on cuts to the number of beds and/or level of service provided to our community. Citizens in the Quinte area depend on these services, further cuts cannot be tolerated.”

McKenna said the cuts mean less care provided by fewer registered nurses.

“The impact of cuts to hospital services as a result of government hospital funding reform means less care provided by fewer registered nurses,” said McKenna. “This is happening at a time when Ontario already has the
second lowest ratio of RNs to population in the country and will result in higher readmission rates and increasing costs.”

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