CUPE hospital workers meeting in Dryden today to push Province to erase hospital deficits

    DRYDEN, ON, Jan. 16 /CNW Telbec/ - Hospital workers from 20 locals of the
Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), representing 1500 hospital staff,
are meeting in Dryden today to press the provincial government to erase
hospital deficits.
    "Patient care is being degraded, jobs are being slashed and services cut
in a system where more than half of Ontario hospitals face deficits," said
Michael Hurley, President of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE
(OCHU), in Dryden today to meet with hospital workers from communities across
the region, including Sioux Lookout, Rainy River, Emo, Kenora, Geraldton and
Red Lake.
    "These deficits are forcing hospitals to keep quiet, bend over backwards
and cut instead of lobbying the province for the money they actually need,"
Hurley said. "We see this at hospitals like Kenora's Lake of the Woods
District Hospital, which is reviewing whether to cut staffing levels and
programs and increase so-called partnerships with for-profit lab companies
despite their threat to public services."
    Recently, after talks with the Northwest Local Health Integration
Network, a "third party" review team released 44 recommendations on how LWDH,
one of the few Ontario hospitals where the community elects its board, could
make "efficiencies" to deal with its deficit. Its first recommendation, Hurley
noted, was to find "alternatives" to the process of electing its board
members. According to the review team, some board members said they would
rather resign than sign an accountability agreement with the McGuinty
government that forced further cuts.
    "Communities that lose their boards today stand to lose even more health
services tomorrow, so it's crucial that Kenora and other Northern communities
be vigilant and fight for their board to serve their actual needs and not the
McGuinty agenda," Hurley said.
    Health Minister David Caplan recently indicated that a funding increase
of 2.1 per cent should be forthcoming in the next provincial budget, an amount
below the rate of inflation for hospitals, which sits at 3.5 per cent. At 2.1,
Ontario hospitals would leave up to 4000 positions unfilled and up to 1000
hospital employees would be laid off, Hurley said.
    But investing in health care is good for local economies, Hurley pointed
out. He said recent studies by the think-tank Informetrica found that $1
billion invested in health care creates 18,100 jobs. The same billion dollars
invested in infrastructure creates 12,500 jobs.
    "Investing in health care makes good economic sense," Hurley said. "The
McGuinty government can protect health care in the North and strengthen local
economies by erasing hospitals deficits and providing full funding."

For further information:

For further information: Michael Hurley, President, OCHU/CUPE, cell:
(416) 884-0770; David Robbins, CUPE Communications, cell: (613) 878-1431

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