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KINGSTON, ON - Stretching the breadth of an immense region - from the U.S. border to Algonquin Park - the Ontario Liberal governments new Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) for the Kingston area, will mean access to medical services for ill patients will be anything but local, says Louis Rodrigues, regional vice-president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) the hospital division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

The Ontario government has revealed little about the plan to consolidate and rationalize health services into regional networks or LHINs since they were introduced this past summer. However the provincial health minister has indicated that the creation of the LHINs is necessary in order to radically transform health care in Ontario.

For the past few weeks, LHINs information sessions have been quietly held across the province. The Kingston LHINs session is taking place tomorrow, Tuesday, December 7.

The health minister has remained uncharacteristically quiet about how the LHINs will be structured, how they will control health care funding, and who will sit on these regional boards. Its also not clear what services will be moved out of our local hospitals and what impact this will have on hospital budgets, says Rodrigues, who is in Kingston along with other OCHU negotiators to bargain a new contract on behalf of tens of thousands of hospital workers with the Ontario Hospital Association.

Although the specifics of how the LHINs will alter the delivery of health care services are still unknown, what we do know is that often when medical services are consolidated and moved from local providers to regional centers, access to care is compromised. The ill and the elderly have to travel greater distances to get the medical care that was once available right in their communities. Local economies also suffer, as decent paying medical jobs are moved out of local hospitals into regional centers further away, says Rodrigues.

Hospital workers represented by OCHU/CUPE have been without a contract since September 28, 2004. The uncertainty around the LHINs and recent remarks by the Ontario health minister, who demeaned the skills of hospital workers, has created much uncertainty and a difficult bargaining climate, adds Hurley.


For more information contact:
Louis Rodrigues, Regonal Vice-president, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE) - (613) 531-1319
Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications - (416) 578-8774