Sarnia Lambton Health Coalition Calls for Cross-Province Public
Consultations, Moratorium on Hospital Cuts and Closures; Joins a Network of
Groups Across Ontario Fighting the Cuts

TORONTO, Nov. 3 /CNW/ - The Ontario Health Coalition, the Sarnia Lambton Health Coalition and Mayor of Brooke-Alvinston, Don McGugan criticized the McGuinty government's plans for its Rural and Northern Health Panel for lack of public consultations. Noting that many devastating cuts and closures are already underway, the group called for a moratorium pending proper public consultations and a review of the current cuts.

The government announced the Panel in response to a major protest against hospital cuts and closures, involving thousands of residents from small and rural communities in front of the Ontario Legislature last April. However, when it finally released the Terms of Reference for the Health Minister's Panel on Rural and Northern Care, there is not a single mention of hospitals. In addition, there are no plans for public consultations until after the panel completes its work this winter; too late for many of the small and rural hospital cuts and closures now underway.

    The group called for the following:
    -   The Terms of Reference must explicitly include a review of the impact
        of small and rural hospital cuts and closures on the affected
    -   A moratorium on cuts and closures, pending the completion of the
        Panel's work, in keeping with the recommendation for a moratorium
        made by the Ontario Medical Association.
    -   Cross-province public consultations, on the record, in the affected
        communities, with the opportunity for residents to bring their
        experiences, concerns and submissions forward.

"We are part of a number of groups affiliated with the Ontario Health Coalition who have fought and will continue to fight in order to keep our hospital services," said Arlene Patterson of the Sarnia Lambton Health Coalition." The McGuinty government needs show some true leadership, and set serious standards for the Rural and Northern Health Panel that shows actual governance, and not just the appearance of it."

"This Panel is not supposed to be another game of "smoke and mirrors," added Natalie Mehra, director of the Ontario Health Coalition. "It was supposed to respond to the very serious concerns about loss of vital hospital services raised by thousands of residents - not only here but all across the province."

"If the panel is not going to use public consultations in order to form hospital policies, it will be discouraging for those of us in rural communities," added Mayor of Brooke-Alvinston, Don McGugan. "The panel needs to come out here and speak to actual people, the real people that these cuts affect.

"The Terms of Reference and process set out by the McGuinty government for its Panel on Rural and Northern Health falls far short of what is needed. They are putting the cart before the horse," concluded Mehra. "By the time they get to developing policy about what is needed in our community, the cuts will have already happened. There should be a moratorium on cuts, proper policy developed and debated, and only then could major hospital restructuring be considered."

SOURCE Ontario Health Coalition

For further information: For further information: Arlene Patterson: (519) 542-1895; Helen Havlik: (519) 882-0357; Natalie Mehra: (416) 230-6402 or (416) 441-2502

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