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NORTH BAY, ON – Area health care and community social service workers today announced they have formed an unprecedented coalition opposing a McGuinty government restructuring plan that they say will erode our public health system and compromise patient care.

According to the coalition, the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) scheme will create a never-ending restructuring process of mergers, transfers and reduced services in numerous communities.

Health service workers belonging to the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA), the Service Employees International Union Local1.on (SEIULocal1.on), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) outlined their concerns about the Liberals’ plan at a media conference in North Bay.

The four health care unions, which collectively represent nearly 200,000 health service workers, have launched a province-wide campaign to stop what they say are the most destructive elements of the LHINs plan. The workers say they do not oppose changes that strengthen our public health system and improve patient care. But the government’s scheme is aimed at cutting costs by downsizing services and slashing the wages of health service workers by contracting out their jobs.

The McGuinty Liberals are in a hurry to push the LHINs legislation into law, yet haven’t been up front about how health service delivery will change for Ontarians, add the health care workers.

Services will be rationed and re-distributed over the vast areas of the new regional networks. This means that many of the health services now available in North Bay could be moved and “centralized” in one location. Patients will have to travel even longer distances to get care once available locally.

In addition to merging and centralizing services, the province plans to set a price for many health procedures and put them up for tender. Many services will be provided by the lowest bidder — not the one able to provide the best level of care for patients. In home care, where this competitive pricing system is already in place, patient care has diminished while staff turnover and costs have increased.

The OPSEU, ONA, SEIU and CUPE coalition represents the first time the four unions have banded together to ensure a for-profit model is not extended to hospitals, long-term care and community-based social services. The campaign includes joint membership meetings and community mobilization across the province, workplace actions, advertising and MPP lobbying prior to the next election.

For a list of regional membership meetings and media conferences — or more information about the CUPE, OPSEU, ONA, SEIU campaign — log onto www.stoplhins.ca.