Niagara Health Coalition

November 17, 2009 12:07 ET

Niagara Health Coalition Calls for Cross-Province Public Consultations, Moratorium, on Hospital Cuts and Closures; Joins a Network of Groups Across Ontario Fighting the Cuts

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Nov. 17, 2009) -

Attn: Assignment Editor

The Ontario Health Coalition, the Niagara Health Coalition, Fort Erie's Yellow Shirt Brigade, and Port Colborne's People's Healthcare Coalition criticized the McGuinty government's plans for its Rural and Northern Health Panel for lack of public consultations. Noting that many devastating cuts and closures are already underway in Niagara and across Ontario, the group called for a moratorium pending proper public consultations and a review of the current cuts.

The government announced the Panel in response to a major protest against hospital cuts and closures, involving thousands of residents from small and rural communities in front of the Ontario Legislature last April. However, when it finally released the Terms of Reference for the Health Minister's Panel on Rural and Northern Care, there is not a single mention of hospitals.

The group called for the following:

- The Terms of Reference must explicitly include a review of the impact of
small and rural hospital cuts and closures on the affected communities.

- A moratorium on cuts and closures, pending the completion of the Panel's
work, in keeping with the recommendation for a moratorium made by the
Ontario Medical Association.

- Cross-province public consultations, on the record, in the affected communities, with the opportunity for residents to bring their
experiences, concerns and submissions forward.

"Even though major closures and cuts to hospital services have already gone ahead, there still need to be public hearings held" said Natalie Mehra, Director of the Ontario Health Coalition. "Niagara was used as the testing ground for hospital restructuring; and the resulting significant problems must be reviewed. Hospital reports from the Niagara Health System are extraordinarily one sided; glossing over the major problems of access to care in Niagara."

Sue Salzer, of the Yellow Shirt Brigade went on to say, "We will continue to be in jeopardy of losing local services in health care as long as the decision making lies in the hands of non-medical and unelected representatives who are not accountable to Ontarians. We are not offered a court of appeals and so the decimation of rural hospitals will continue unless the Rural and Northern Panel changes its policy, and offers to us the opportunity to be heard."

"Community consultation should be at the beginning of the process of the Mcguinty government's Rural and Northern Health Care Panel; not after the panel has completed its work," said Pat Schofield, of the People's Healthcare Coalition. "In Niagara there has been no genuine public consultation. As Dr. Carruthers of Ottawa, appointed facilitator between the NHS and physicians stated in his report (pg.4), "However, though time was limited for consultation those designing the plan (Hospital Improvement Plan) were often instructed not to consult with key physicians." Not only was the public excluded, so too were clinical and support staff. It is simply poor governance for the Ministry of Health to ignore all input, all ideas, and all concerns of the public."

"There are far reaching implications of decreasing services in our rural areas," concluded Sue Hotte, of the Niagara Health Coalition. "The restructuring has led to an increase in wait times in the ERs and for services, lack of beds and understaffing. For the sake of all who live in an area serviced by the heavily indebted Niagara Health System, a system which now has an operating deficit of $19 million and a long term debt of $116 million dollars, the government must stop further cuts to beds and local hospitals, and must properly evaluate the consequences of their restructuring policies."

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