RENFREW, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Feb. 14, 2014) - With the recent announcement that the Renfrew hospital plans to cut birthing and obstetrics services, eastern Ontario hospitals are quickly becoming ground zero for health service cuts in Ontario, says Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).
Downsizing hospitals, cutting beds and shedding services is the basis for the provincial Liberal government's health care delivery reforms. Small rural hospitals are particularly threatened under this plan.
The Renfrew Victoria Hospital plans to close its obstetrics unit in June 2014. The closure comes following significant bed, surgery, procedure and therapy cuts at neighbouring hospitals in Arnprior and Perth and Smiths Falls. Ottawa too will see thousands of procedures moved from the Ottawa Hospital and privatized to private clinics, some of them for-profit.
"Short of closing hospitals as is happening in Niagara, it appears that eastern Ontario is seeing the harshest cuts to hospital services than elsewhere in the province," says Hurley.
Cutting obstetrics is particularly "shortsighted" Hurley says. "Communities need both the young and the old to stay vibrant. If young families can't access health services including birthing at the local hospital they will not be moving to Renfrew. Cutting hospital services is not a way to build and grow the community. It is the exact opposite of what Renfrew needs. If this cut happens, there will be no babies (unless born at home) with Renfrew as their birth place. And that is such a loss."
At the Arnprior Memorial Hospital, six hospital beds have been closed and de-staffed since early summer 2013. There are plans to cut more services in physiotherapy and diagnostic imaging, which will mean longer waiting times for area patients.
In Perth and Smiths Falls the communities have formed a local coalition, which has been actively fighting the closure of 12 hospital beds and cuts to hip, knee and cataract surgeries, the day hospital, palliative care, physician recruitment and non-emergency surgery.
Hurley is encouraging the Renfrew community to mobilize, like they've done in Perth and in Smiths Falls, to keep obstetrics at the local hospital or face the slow and eventual death of their community hospital. He is also calling on the area MPP to speak out against the cut to obstetrics at the Renfrew Victoria Hospital and stop it from going forward.