Members of the Ontario Health Coalition are sending a message to Premier Kathleen Wynne that cutting health-care funding in the upcoming provincial budget isn't the way to go.
About 20 people, mostly members of local health-care unions, held a demonstration outside of Health Sciences North March 4, holding signs saying “SOS – Save our Services.”
The Ontario Health Coalition is a network of more than 400 grassroots community organizations in the province dedicated to helping members become engaged in public policy related to health care and healthy communities.
Dave Shelefontiuk, president of CUPE Local 1623, the union representing hospital clerical and service staff, said the province should consider increasing taxes or cutting from other areas to ensure proper health-care funding.
He said he fears a deterioration in hospital services as the province struggles to balance its budget.
“Every hospital is doing their best to provide services, but without the proper funding and the proper staffing, I just see the wait times going up and up, and I see the quality of services going down and down.”
Shelefontiuk said it always seems to be his members who get hit with layoffs.
In early February, the alternate level of care (ALC) unit at the former Memorial site was closed.
It was originally slated to close at the end of March, but the hospital decided to shut it early, partly because it was too expensive to operate.
As a result, several Local 1623 members have lost their jobs, some full-time staff have been moved into part-time jobs and there's others now working outside of their field of expertise, he said.
Mine Mill Local 598/CAW vice-president Anne-Marie MacInnis, who also attended the protest, shared her personal experience regarding the closure of Memorial's ALC unit.
She said her father was being cared for there, but is now back at Health Sciences North's Ramsey Lake Health Centre site, waiting for placement in a long-term care facility.
“We as a family had to keep reassuring him and reassuring him, saying 'Dad, it's going to be OK. You're not going to be thrown in the street. We're here every day to make sure your needs are met.'”
MacInnis said it's actually against the law for hospitals to run a deficit, so they face making cuts instead. People need to tell Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Deb Matthews that such cuts aren't acceptable, she said.
Local 598 represents workers at several long-term care facilities in the region, and these institutions are also facing provincial funding restraints, MacInnis said.
She said she expects a “long list of concessions” to be put on the table in upcoming negotiations with local nursing homes.
Melissa Wood, a dietary worker at St. Gabriel's Villa, said her workplace, along with St. Joseph's Villa, has just gone through a round of cuts as the management for the two nursing homes battles a deficit.
While nobody actually lost their job, several workers were moved from full-time to part-time.
The nursing homes have also reduced the number of overall workers caring for residents, so there's less time for tasks like helping with bathing or shaving, said Wood, who is Local 598's unit president at St. Gabriel's Villa.
She said she fears government austerity measures could mean even more cuts at her workplace.
“Whenever there's cutbacks, it seems to be the front-line workers who are already suffering who are affected,” Wood said. “Then the residents also get to suffer.”