Marking a first for this type of community-wide outreach, last night, 4150 North Bay residents joined two town hall-format teleconference calls to stop the cuts and save the services at the local hospital. The calls were hosted by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and a guest panel moderated by CUPE National President Paul Moist.
Many who participated shared heart-wrenching accounts about being discharged from North Bay Regional Health Centre (NBRHC) too soon and too sick to be sent home, with little or no care supports at home or in the community. From the 92-year old woman who told how she was sent home with pneumonia that lasted for weeks, to the patient discharged the next day after having a breast removed, “it must be clear to the provincial government that people are suffering as a result of these hospital cuts. It’s time for a funding increase for Ontario’s hospitals,” said Michael Hurley the president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).
Callers told how difficult it is to access care at the hospital during a sustained four-year-long provincial funding freeze for Ontario hospitals that is forcing many hospitals, including North Bay’s, to make deep patient care and staffing cuts.
In the last three years, NBRHC has cut several hundred direct nursing care positions and closed dozens of beds, including mental health beds, despite a growing need for them in the north. Last month the hospital announced that 158 jobs would be eliminated. The hospital administration has also warned that there will be more cuts coming to stem a $14 million provincial funding gap for 2015.
86 per cent of participants said they, or a family member, had received medical treatment at the hospital in the last year. A significant number, 55 per cent said, they, or someone they knew, had been released prematurely from hospital.
CUPE 139 President Shawn Shank stressed that NBRHC is severely hampered by higher operating costs, tied to its private partnership construction and operation. “But the province doesn’t compensate the hospital for these additional costs and patients are paying the price with their suffering,” said Shank.
Ontario Health Coalition director Natalie Mehra invited callers to a community rally on November 30 at North Bay’s Lee Park. A delegation from North Bay will also be at the Ontario Legislature that day and the goal is to “pipe-in” the community rally directly to Queen’s Park “so government can hear those gathered in Lee Park.”
For more information, please contact:
President, Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE