An Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) visit to Queen’s Park highlighted an urgent issue with Ontario’s healthcare.
That from Bonnie Roe, Chair of the Haliburton Highlands Long Term Care Coalition, who was one of 60 OHC members to visit the provincial legislature on Dec. 5. The agency held a press conference that morning to announce a new report about the “unprecedented and worsening” hospital closures happening across the province.
“This is endangering the lives of Ontarians across the province,” says Roe. “There are some communities that have to drive over an hour to the closest emergency [department]. And sometimes they even get there and it’s closed. So people are Googling which emergencies are open. That’s just unbelievable.”
Roe and a handful of colleagues met with several MPPs, including the leaders of the opposition NDP and Green Part. “They were incredibly supportive in wanting to help the coalition promote our vision, in terms of getting the government to act on reinvesting money into hospitals, rather than into privatization,” says Roe, noting that there were no meetings with Conservative MPPs.
The Ford government, for its part, has touted increased funding to private clinics as a way to cut down on wait times. The province also says in the last three years, they’ve added more than 3,500 hospital beds across the province, and hired over 60,000 new nurses since 2018, along with 8,000 new physicians.
On the home front, Roe says the closure of the Minden ER in June has hit the community hard, with 25 minutes to the next closest hospital. “There was one example of a gentleman who died between Minden and Haliburton. He had a heart attack and he didn’t receive the initial care he needed with such an acute issue happening,” she says. However, she says it’s just one example of the nearly 1,200 temporary or permanent closures of health care facilities province-wide since January.
“The health care system has never been in such a crisis, nor have the lives of Ontarians been so endangered—it’s very scary,” says Roe.
According to Roe, the OHC will not give up trying to sound the alarm on hospital closures, adding that there are things the government could start on right now to alleviate the issue.
“The immediate cause of the closures is staffing shortages,” says Roe. “The government hasn’t tried to rebuild the system by increasing wages, by improving working conditions, or by even expediating training of doctors and nurses from other countries. There’s so much they could be doing, but instead of that, they’re investing in private clinics and hospitals.”