Local front-line heath care workers and Saultities joined forces with the Ontario Health Coalition and the Sault Ste. Marie Health Coalition on Saturday afternoon at the George Leech Centre, as part of a rally to push back at government cuts to health care in the province.
“(These cuts) are very, very dramatic,” Natalie Mehra, the Executive Director of the Ontario Health Coalition, told SaultOnline, “and they’ll affect Algoma and Sault Ste. Marie significantly.”
One concern Mehra hears the most throughout the North is the distance between services, leaving people stranded and struggling to find a way home after surgery.
“We hear a lot from people who go for surgery, say in Sudbury, and then they have no way home and have to drive themselves home after surgery or find another way to get back to the Sault; or people who are flown into Thunder Bay and then are discharged and have no way home,” she explained.
Another concern is the over-capacity in the three larger hospitals in the North – Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay – causing hallways to be filled with overflow, in what Mehra calls a “crsis-level situation.”
“And the Ford Government is actually planning real dollar cuts to hospitals,” she continued.
“Despite Doug Ford saying he would end hallway medicine, the real fact is that they’re actually not providing enough funding to even keep pace with inflation, let alone population growth or aging.”
One of the speakers at the rally was Jean Hershey, a member of the Algoma Family Council Coalition, who represent long-term care homes across Algoma, including the five in the Sault.
Hershey told SaultOnline she’s already seen some of the affects of the health care cuts locally with PSWs.
“The demands and care needs are far worse; long-term care PSWs are having to work harder, under additional stress, risking injury – it’s a backbreaking job,” she said.
“And as a result of this, we’re seeing that they’re having to work short on shiftst, causing the process to continue where burnout and injuries repeat themselves.”
She said she hopes that the Ontario Government is listening to the people and that these rallies help them realize these cuts cannot continue.
“We’re an aging population, we’re a population that suffers from illness and requires hospitalization and ambulance services – these are cuts that we can’t afford to live with.”
Mehra said this isn’t the end of the road, but she hopes these rallies help end health care cuts and stop potential amalgamation and closures of public health units and ambulance services, which she said would be “asinine” for Northern Ontario.
“We can’t stop here,” she said.
“We have to carry on. Everybody has a role to play – we are moving the ball down the field, but we’re not all the way there yet…People need to put on the pressure.”
Ways to do so include sending postcards to the government, volunteering with a Health Care Coalition or calling local MPP Ross Romano.