Rally decries hospital, nursing home cuts
Patients are suffering, union leaders say
Hundreds of hospital and nursing home workers from Hamilton and across Ontario rallied outside the General on Monday, calling for adequate provincial funding for patient care and safe workplaces.
About 1,000 staff gathered on the hospital grounds beside Victoria Avenue to hear their union leaders hammer home a message that patients are suffering more and workers are facing increasing violence and burnout.
The rally is the second of several planned across Ontario through to the fall.
“The people of this community rely on us every day,” said CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn. “All are suffering from the cuts of this Liberal government. We’re here to say enough is enough.”
He said in Canada, health care is a human right; Ontario’s government must step up its funding.
“We stand together to defend our health-care system,” he said.
Lou Iannone, at Joseph Brant Hospital, said patients are being pushed out of hospitals before they are well enough to go home — and those needing to go to a nursing home can’t find a bed.
“The best advocacy we can do for our patients and residents is to push hard for the resources to care for them properly.”
Adding to the problem is that “all of us have seen our work go through the roof. People are laid off and are not being replaced. This is all impacting on patient care,” she said.
Domenic Di Pasquale, CUPE 786 president at St. Joseph’s Healthcare, mentioned the wage freeze lift for hospital executives and said “God help them” if money that should be going into hospitals goes into executive pockets.
CUPE 1404 president Heather Neiser, with St. Joseph’s Villa, said that with cuts to hospitals, nursing homes are being turned into complex continuing-care hospitals without additional staffing or proper funding.
“We have an aging and growing population that needs more care than we are able to provide.”
She also talked of the dangers of taking away psychotic medication from nursing home residents who need it. The medication reduces violence from dementia patients and yet it is often taken away, which results in “horrific assaults of residents on residents, or even deaths.”
But government has not addressed this worsening issue, she added.
“Ontario has the fewest longterm care beds for its population, than any province in Canada or any country in the Western world. Shame on us,” she said. “This is the result of eight years of budget cuts from the Ontario government.”
She said the emotional, physical and medical needs of the residents, and their dementia and violence toward medical workers, have all increased in the last 10 years.
Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, said, “We’re here today to say we’re breaking physically and emotionally, trying to deliver care …”
About 1,000 CUPE union members from across Ontario rallied at the Hamilton General Hospital over the noon hour Monday. Members are demanding a stop to provincial cuts to hospital and long-term care facilities.