CALLING FOR 'NO MORE CUTS'
Friday November 13th, 2015
TRENTON - The cold front that blew into the region Friday is nothing like the cold shoulder that hundreds of people gave the provincial government.
More than 600 health care workers and residents were at Friday’s rally in Trenton’s Centennial Park protesting cuts to health care.
Bus loads of unionized health care workers from across central and eastern Ontario descended on the park to attend the first in a series of four Ontario Health Coalition rallies being held across the province.
Local hospital advocacy group Our TMH helped organize the rally.
Beleaguered Trenton Memorial and other small, rural hospitals were the focus of attention during the rally cut short by blustery winds and falling temperatures.
“Small and rural hospitals like TMH can not survive another two more years of cuts. Hospitals in small towns are teetering on the brink of disaster,” said Coalition executive director Natalie Mehra.
That drew an angry response from the crowd of “no more cuts.”
Despite the weather conditions, the crowd was upbeat as one speaker after the other slammed the provincial Liberal government.
Louis Rodrigues, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, said funding cuts are shredding services.
“All of us are here today demand the restoration of services, and services that have been shuttered in small communities. We’re also here to demand that full service be restored at Trenton Memorial,” said Rodrigues.
Again the crowd broke into the “not more cuts” chant.
“We are all united in pushing back against a provincial Liberal government that is attacking our hospitals in our communities. We are here today to demand an end to the funding freeze that is choking the life out of our hospitals,” said Rodrigues.
Vicki McKenna, provincial vice president of the Ontario Nurses Association, kept the crowd riled up.
“Health care in this province is under attack. We will have to fight for it in order for it to stay. It seems to be the easy thing to do – to slowly cut bits and pieces out of the health care system so that our hospitals are left as skeletons. It’s not acceptable to me as a registered nurse and it’s not acceptable to communities. Our communities need to be strong and continue to stand up and do anything they can because if they don’t health care will not be there for you,” said McKenna.
Quinte Health Care didn’t escape the anger either.
Our TMH vice chair Mike Cowan said QHC employees were barred from attending the rally after administrators issued an edict that no employees were to be given the day off to attend the rally.
That was confirmed by several QHC employees who were at the rally, but did not want to be identified.
Cowan said it’s time to take TMH back.
“We won’t take 10 years to fix the hospital. That’s about the time it’s taken QHC to break it,” said Cowan, receiving a huge round of applause.
Northumberland-Quinte West MPP Lou Rinaldi was singled out for not being at the rally.
“He likely didn’t have the guts,” said a protester standing in the crowd.
But neighbouring Conservative MPP Todd Smith had plenty to say.
Smith said the No. 1 priority he hears from people across the region is they want good access to health care and they want it close to home.
“They don’t want to have to travel to Kingston or Ottawa for services,” said Smith.
Smith slammed Liberals for misspending public money on gas plant scandals, payouts to teacher unions and the sell off of Hydro One.
“It’s not good news for health care that priorities are not being placed in the right place,” said Smith.
Smith praised the efforts of Our TMH, but skirted a question on whether or not he supports the removal of Trenton Memorial from QHC.
“I support Our TMH for wanting to keep services in Trenton. I realize how important that is to Quinte West and the region. Cutting in Trenton will only increase the caseload at Belleville General,” said Smith.
But Smith did add Our TMH is doing the right thing by exploring different opportunities, including opening a veteran’s care wing.
Smith said the only way for TMH to survive is for Our TMH to look at other models – of smaller, stand alone rural hospitals that dot the province.
“The health minister has asked them to think outside the box. There needs to be incentive from the ministry to allow the LHIN to make some of that happen. Bureaucracy is the biggest problem in our health system right now. It’s taking away from front line health care,” said Smith.
Mehra later said some of the services left at TMH will, in all likelihood, be cut or shifted outside the hospital, including complex continuing care beds and eye surgery.
“The community is being set up. The community should be warned that its hospital is very much at risk. Lou Rinaldi has to bring that message by to the Liberal caucus,” said Mehra.