North Bay protesters heading south today

North Bay Nugget

Health care protest expected to draw thousands to Queen’s Park

Thousands of teachers, students and unions came out to protest various education cuts filling the front lawn at Queen’s Park April 6. Jack Boland/Postmedia Network

Two buses from North Bay, filled with union activists, will travel to Queen’s Park today to join more than 12,000 people to voice their concerns over changes being made to the health-care system.

Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) and Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) have organized the protest, expected to attract more than 100 buses filled with concerned Ontarians.

North Bay Labour Council president Henri Giroux said people will not know the cuts that are being made or the impact until they experience the loss of services themselves.

“We’re going there to make some noise,” he said Monday.

During the rally, protesters will hear directly from cancer survivors, chronic pain patients, nurses, paramedics, doctors and other health-care professionals.

“I know the bill (the People’s Health Care Act) has passed, but changes can still be made,” Giroux said. “We’re not giving up. We’ve seen this picture before in the ’90s. However, (Premier Doug) Ford is pushing harder and faster. We stopped the former Harris government from doing things, so we can do it again.”

Union leaders are calling the rally one of the largest of its type, and are attempting to stop health care cuts, privatization of health care services and mega-mergers they say threaten local health care services.

Giroux said the province moved quickly to get the People’s Health Care Act passed without proper consultation.

“They had two half-day consultations in Toronto. With it being such a big bill, I was quite surprised that everything was done within two weeks. More than 1,700 people submitted concerns and questions, and the province only permitted 30.”

He said there’s concern about super agencies and how they will affect Northern Ontario hospital care. We’re concerned smaller hospitals could lose their services and be forced to download to larger hospitals like North Bay Regional Health Centre.”

Giroux said health units also are at risk with a proposed reduction of 10 from 35.

“There’s so many questions. Will there be one health unit for all of Northern Ontario? Where will it be located? North Bay just built a brand new facility, but I guess they could sell it for a good price. I just can’t foresee more than one health unit for all of Northern Ontario.”

He said it’s important to keep the pressure on in order to hold the government accountable.

Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli said the province is committed to balancing the budget in a responsible manner by protecting what matters most – health care, education and other services.

“Let me again be clear on the issue – our government is committed to protecting and strengthening our publicly funded health-care system. This piece of legislation (Bill 74) proves just that,” he said.

“If our critics read the bill, they will find no mention of what they have been fear-mongering about for weeks. The opposition has been playing politics with the issue most important to Ontario families – it’s a shame and they should apologize. We finally have an opportunity to fix our broken health-care system and to build a system that is centred around people, not bureaucracy.”

Fedeli said the province also is committed to working directly alongside health care partners and municipalities as it modernizes Ontario’s public health units.

“Ultimately, the government’s proposed plan will enable a better matching of public health needs with local realities. This collaboration is ongoing, and it is too early to discuss outcomes. Formal consultations will be launched shortly.”

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