Windsor-Essex 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 Windsor-Essex Health Coalition and Charlene Houle, General Manager of the Migrant Worker Community Program, 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.

"This Panel is not supposed to be another game of "smoke and mirrors," said 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."

Jan Countess, of the Windsor-Essex Health Coalition added, "The McGuinty government can waste over a billion dollars on a failed e-Health project. Well they can "waste" two-million dollars on Leamington's hospital right now instead of a panel that does not consult with our area on the hospital deficit which is caused by the government not funding in accordance with inflation levels in the first place."

Charlene Houle, General Manager of the Migrant Worker Community Program was quoted as saying, "The over 5000 migrant workers who come into the Leamington/South Essex region every year rely upon having a Hospital that is accessible and fully functioning. The migrant workers are essential players in the economic success of the agricultural industries in our region and the health and safety of those workers must be a priority."

"The Terms of Reference and process set out by the McGuinty government for its Panel on Rural and Northern Heath 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."


For further information: For further information: Jan Countess, (519) 325-0581; Natalie Mehra, (416) 230-6402 or (416) 441-2502

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