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About 8,000 people rallied in Toronto to halt hospital mergers. Photo: Ron Sutch.

Rally for the Ross Monday to stop merger; Toronto rally attracts thousands

in Around Town/Community/Health/Local News by

“Hands Off Our Health Care” chanted a capacity crowd of about 8,000 people — including people from Kawartha Lakes — who joined hands and encircled Queen’s Park earlier in the week at the largest rally at the Ontario Legislature since Doug Ford became premier earlier this year.

On Monday Oct. 29, from 11 am to 1 pm, under the umbrella of the Ontario Health Coalition, the newly formed Kawartha Lakes Health Coalition chapter will rally at the corner of Kent and Angeline Streets outside. The goal is to stop the expected Ross Memorial Hospital merger with the Peterborough Regional Health Centre (PRHC).

The coalition is hoping for a good turn-out from the public to join in and peacefully protest against the proposed merger.

Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner. Photo: Ron Sutch.

By working together, there may be a chance to stop it or to reduce the cuts to services that are expected to impact Ross Memorial, and to peacefully show support for keeping Ross funded, serviced and staffed without contemplating a merger.

The Ross and the PRHC announced their “integration discussions” by releasing a shared vision, a community engagement and communications plan and an overall integration work plan in April after being mandated by the regional funding body — the Central East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) — to ‘explore integration’ on March 28. But make no mistake — this is more than an exploration or the discussion of an idea: One of the strategic goals of the community engagement plan is to “build commitment to the new organization.”

The very same document that plans for ‘town halls’ and surveys to get ‘stakeholder feedback’ also has the date for full integration: January 1, 2019. They are telling us, in advance of whatever “concerns” we might raise as a community, that this merger is a done deal.

At the rally in Toronto, Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, told the crowd that Premier Doug Ford had been invited to the rally to disavow plans for cuts and privatization in several areas across the province, including the Kawartha Region.

Ford declined to attend and did not send the health minister and or anyone else in his stead.

“In the short time since the provincial election, Doug Ford has cut OHIP+ and mental health funding,” Mehra told the rally. “And has released a major report calling for means testing, user fees and privatization of health care and other services. This is intolerable. Ontarians are demanding that Mr. Ford live up to his promises and expand and restore services, not privatize them.”

Doug Ford alone was the only political leader to not address the rally.

John Fraser, interim Liberal leader and Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party, pushed for more investment in the public health care system, not cuts.

“Families want to know that when a loved one needs to visit the hospital, they won’t be stuck in a hallway. They need to know that a long-term-care bed will be there for an aging parent,” said Andrea Horwath, NDP leader of the Official Opposition.

Patients and advocates called for improvements to health care and seniors care, hospital overcrowding and homecare, including reopening closed hospital beds, a long-term care minimum care standard of four hours per resident per day, and also that all new capacity in hospitals, long term care and community care to be built as pubic, non-profit services and not privatized.

Michael Hurley, president, OCHU/CUPE said, “The Ford government cut $377 million in funding from mental health and addictions. Its $90 million in hospital surge funding replaces $187 million — so it is cutting $97 million. This government’s fiscal plans collide sharply with healthcare funding and we expect the closure of 3,000 hospital beds by the time the dust settles unless we push back hard. That is what we are firmly committed to do.”

“Premier Ford has to address the undeniable crisis in health care — patients are feeling it and health care workers are feeling it every day,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor national president.

“Pre-election, Doug Ford promised to end hallway medicine, but instead he’s hired former B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, who slashed health care in favour of privatization. Unifor is here to say hands off our health care.”

— with files from Trevor Hutchinson.

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Roderick Benns is the publisher of The Lindsay Advocate. He is the author of 'Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World,' and is also Vice Chair of the Ontario Basic Income Network. An award-winning author and journalist who grew up in Lindsay, Roderick has interviewed former Prime Ministers of Canada, Senators, and Mayors across Canada. He also wrote and published a series of books for youth about Canada's Prime Ministers as teens.

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