COBOURG, Ont. — Silence by Northumberland area MPP Lou Rinaldi on the detrimental impact of hospital patient care and service cuts at the community hospital, is not acceptable, say area health care workers who expect better from him.
The Ontario legislature resumes in mid-February and all indicators are that a provincial budget will follow in early March. Northumberland Hills Hospital (NHH) staff represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) “want our MPP to be vocal before that budget is released. We want him to call for an increase to hospital funding and a stop to the hospital cuts. We want him to do what he was elected to do and stand up for hospital services in our communities across the county. Mr. Rinaldi,” says Alice Cunnington, CUPE 2628 president, “also has an obligation to ensure that Ontarians from outside our community, driving our stretch of the 401 have access to a well-staffed hospital, ready to provide all-manner of care in a medical emergency.”
NHH is the only hospital between Bowmanville and Trenton along the Highway 401 corridor and is about 40 minutes away from hospitals in larger urban centres. If a collision happens on the highway between Durham and Quinte, “it is our hospital that deals with the people injured. So medical emergency care and the ability to admit patients are important,” says Cunnington. However, she points out that it’s not just the volume of patients that cause emergency room delays. “If too many beds have been closed and too many staff have been eliminated we get congested ERs. Patients can’t be admitted when there is no bed available or staff to care for them.”
As part of a community outreach facilitated by an out-of-hospital consultant doing an external operational review for NHH, area residents identified improved emergency care as a key demand. Local media reported that one of the residents said they were turned away by the NHH emergency room, because of congestion. She had to travel to Peterborough to receive care.
For the last four years, Rinaldi’s Liberal government has frozen hospital budgets, “which has cut them by more than 4 per cent a year when inflationary costs, like the price of drugs and medical technologies, are factored in. Northumberland has lost more than 15 per cent of its budget in real terms during a period when its catchment population is growing and is aging and demanding more acute hospital care,” says Michael Hurley president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).
Across Mr. Rinaldi’s constituency, particularly in Trenton, Picton and Belleville, services are also being cut very deeply. “It is time for this member of provincial parliament to speak up,” Hurley adds.
Cunnington along with other NHH hospital staff are seeking a face-to-face meeting with MPP Rinaldi. “We want him to commit to keep hospital surgeries, beds and labs open, and to tell the health and finance ministers that funding for Ontario hospitals must go up or patients’ lives will be put at risk.”
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